Meg Whitman’s campaign pushed back on a new $800K Democratic TV attack buy Friday, charging that the state party’s new ad is a cynical, underhanded, union-financed effort to help Steve Poizner win the Republican nomination for governor.
And anyway, they insisted, it’s not an effective spot. All righty then: the food’s awful and the portions are too small.
Twelve hours after Calbuzz first reported that Jerry Brown’s campaign and the CDP had collaborated on the new hit, whacking eMeg as a sleazy Wall Street insider, two of her strategists launched a two-track counter-attack on the effort:
They said it was not only “proof positive that the unions are trying to influence the Republican primary,” because they fear Whitman’s campaign promises to dump 40,000 state workers and cut public employee pension benefits, but also evidence that Poizner is a useful idiot who is the Democrat’s “clearly preferred candidate…. (because) they know he’s unelectable and they can beat him.”
Whitman communications director Tucker Bounds and senior adviser Rob Stutzman told political writers that their information, based on checks with TV stations around the state, was that the Dems were spending $800,000 on a buy that would run at least over the next four days. Tenoch Flores, the CDP’s communications director, said the buy was “over $800,000” and would run for five days; the spot, among other things, hits eMeg for evading taxes through “an offshore shell game.”
On one level, the new CDP ad — authoritatively narrated by Peter Coyote — seeks support for legislation sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) that aims to recover an estimated $100 billion in tax revenues lost by the United States each year as a result of corporations and citizens who dodge taxes by holding funds in offshore accounts in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. But that’s just in the last six seconds of a 30-second commercial. The first 24 seconds are used to attack eMeg, mostly for her connections to Goldman Sachs.
So any fair minded person viewing this ad would see it as an assault on Whitman, who is Exhibit A for “wealthy Wall Street insiders.” Calbuzz wanted to discuss the strategic political purpose of the ad, so we rang up CDP Chairman John Burton. He insisted the purpose of the ad is to support Levin’s anti-tax haven legislation (as if this were the No. 1 priority for the California Democratic Party). When we said we were hoping to have an honest discussion about the political strategy of the ad, Burton exploded: “Are you calling me a liar? Fuck you!” And he hung up the phone. Hey Burton! Thanks for nothing, you jackass.
Brown’s spokesman Sterling Clifford (or Clifford Sterling, as our Department of Dyslexic Proper Names knows him) dismissed the notion that the Democrats want to help Poizner at Whitman’s expense. “The Republican party has two candidates who have rushed to embrace the extreme wing of their party,” he said. “Whichever one eventually gets the Republican nomination, we’re confident the people of California will choose Jerry Brown in November.”
BTW: Calbuzz predicts the CDP’s initial air time buy is just rope-a-dope (trying to avoid a Whitman counter assault) and that they’ll keep up the buy for a few more weeks.
What it all means: Poizner’s camp, basking in a momentum shift in the GOP race, dismissed the Whitman spin with its own, disdainful spin: “The Whitman Campaign has become a very expensive Humpty Dumpty,” said communications director Jarrod Agen, “and all of the Goldman Sachs money and all the hacks in Sacramento can’t put Meg’s campaign back together again.”
In a week when the Republican campaign was finally joined, after months in which Her Megness had the field to herself, the latest three-way exchange makes clear that Whitman:
1-Will be forced to fight a two-front war over the next four weeks.
She’s now being whipsawed in an intriguing political dynamic, getting whacked from the right and left simultaneously on the very same issue – her close ties to Goldman Sachs.
Whistling past the graveyard, Bounds and Stutzman insisted that the Goldman-Sachs attack line is “not terribly effective” – while taking pains to point out Poizner’s own ties to the scandal-tainted investment bank (which Calbuzz reported on earlier this week), challenging reporters to put “sunlight on his investments” and point out his “hypocritical” stance on the issue.
No one has yet challenged the validity of the extremely scientific Calbuzz calculation that Whitman scores 80% on the Goldman Sachs Taint of Scandal chart compared to just 15% GSTS for Poizner and 5% for Brown.
2-Has lost control of the campaign narrative.
After months of stiffing the press – when a Wall Street Journal reporter asked eMeg a few months ago about her aversion to reporters, she answered that Some of these newspapers, as you know better than I, will not be around in the near term – Team Whitman has now convened two conference calls in three days in an effort to shape reporters’ stories, an attempt to redirect the emerging campaign meme that her once-big lead was based on soft support that’s quickly eroding.
3-Is being pushed hard to the right.
For much of the campaign to date, Whitman has been trying to position herself for a general election race. But with Poizner pressuring her hard on issues like immigration and his sweeping tax cut proposal, Bounds acknowledged Friday that eMeg will be more aggressive in efforts to portray her GOP rival as a demon sheep liberal and herself as “truly the most conservative candidate.” (HT to Steve Harmon of the Coco Times for raising the issue.) The negative comparative is the point of her new spot ripping Poizner as a Prop. 13 supporter out to harm senior citizens.
Final word to Bounds: “There is plenty of evidence to suggest that…(Poizner) is part of the Sacramento problem.” Watch for more of this.
Press clip: Belated kudos to John Myers of KQED radio, who did a superb job of moderating the eMeg-Poizner smackdown the other night at San Jose’s Tech Museum.
Myers was firm but not overbearing in keeping control of the event throughout, did nice work in following up and forcing answers to questions from the panel the candidates ignored – especially when he pressed eMeg to say whether she did anything wrong on stock spinning (surprise, surprise, she said she didn’t) and tossed a gotcha question that put both candidates in Bambi-in-the-headlights mode. All this, plus he had the best tailored suit and crispest tie knot on the stage.
Just because: The slide show with this NYT piece is a riot.