or: Brown smartly appeals to younger voters, GOP entrenches for further in-fighting
The gloves have come off for the holidays; the season of pomp and cheer being replaced with an air of accusation and jeering. It seems that the three major candidates are already dealing with crises, the GOP candidates especially seem to still be trying to separate themselves from one another and, by smearing the next guy, trying to make it a vote that consists of just ‘not voting’ for the greater of the evils. Brown has had few PR issues and is now making some smart moves appearing at a fundraiser recently to get out and damage control the ‘recording scandal’ while Whitman and Poizner and both dealing with yet another round of unflattering facts coming out under scrutiny of the platforms and merit badges they point at to show their qualifications. So early in the campaign these candidates are already doing more repairs than improvements to their campaigns as this shapes up to be less of a ‘race to the Governor’s office’ and more of a pushing and shoving match to grab the last slice of pizza at a frat party.
Steve Poizner, third place GOP candidate with essentially no chance of winning even a ‘participant’ trophy at this point, has been cut down in some of his claims that, under his leadership as Insurance Commissioner, the state has seen a reduction to insurance costs to the tune of nearly $2 billion. Analysts at Consumer Watchdog seem to conclude that this figure really is inflated by $800 million since these cuts were set forth by Garamendi, Poizner’s predecessor. The Mercury News goes further to explain that Poizner, in fact, made some changes in May of 2008 to actually make it easier for insurance companies to hike up rates in certain sectors totaling $282 million in price increases. Poizner’s people, of course, defend his actions by saying that necessary changes were made and cite that the decreases of overall cost are factual, and no matter who initiated the changes, Poizner approved them and set them in motion.
Here is where you need to question the facts. There are facts that contradict one another under Poizner’s actual effect in his position. You could argue that he has simply been a custodian of the Garamendi legacy as insurance commissioner while doing little of his own work. It seems that Poizner’s people, as with all other candidates, cite facts, and they are facts, that paint him in a good light. They aren’t all out lies, what is more closely related to the reality of the situation is that the facts have been shaped and are stated as vague enough that you can’t call him a liar or a lame fish because he gets to tote the accomplishments of the office he hold and does not have to state what he has actually done. This creative manipulation of stats and facts shows up again when he beats the drum of cutting department cost by 15% overall and cutting staff by some 200 or so. Those numbers are a bit inflated and it seems that he should not be claiming this as his accomplishment being that the mandate for those cuts came down from legislature and the Governor due to the state deficit. So Poizner really should be claiming that he was able to operate within the constraints of a failing economy in California; he’s a good ‘Yes Man’.
Jerry Brown has faced a similar issue in the ‘recording scandal’ that was never really a scandal per say. Like Poizner’s claims being ambiguously inaccurate but not entirely a lie Brown has faced the same scrutiny in his poorly handled internal investigation of the incident that saw one of his senior aides resign. But Brown has chosen a very clever strategy of finally taking the offensive in fundraising and doing something that is entirely necessary in his campaign, he is reaching out to those that don’t remember ‘Brown’s California’…the young people. In a stroke of genius, in my opinion, the 71 year old Brown spoke at a club on the Sunset Strip to a group of 20, 30, and 40-somethings, called the Generation for Change. This is who he needed to reach out to, those that either were not alive or have no real recollection of what he did as Governor so long ago. This is a group of progressive professionals that may only be able to recall Brown in his ’92 bid for President, which failed, so it is vital that he reach out to this voting base and either change the impression they have of him, or give them an impression at all.
Brown, in ’92, ran on a campaign finance reform idea that he would accept a maximum of only $100 dollars from individuals and organizations; smartly he has abandoned this platform commenting that it is impossible to do this today in a state race and that if Whitman was willing to return the contributions to her campaign and take back the nearly $20 million of her own dollars she has spent then he would agree to a $100 maximum contribution rule for this election…unlikely though. Brown was able to get the group to laugh, he very creatively explained away claims that he changes all the time, “Well, if you are alive and if you are listening and you are growing, you will change, because the world is changing, and if you still were where you were before, you are dead.” He was able to outline the problems we face in California with a deficit, but he spoke to the fact we all seem to forget, that California has a state wealth of $1.6 trillion…it’s not all bad since our deficit is only about 1% of our overall wealth, this can be fixed.
I have to say here that I have a growing respect for the ‘campaigning Brown’. He is making a lot of good decisions thus far in so many different areas. The fact that he let Newsom burn himself out was a savvy decision on his part, to say the least. Brown has also now started to reach out to the younger voters with an air of charisma and has handled the recording scandal very well hushing it down to mere whispers. He is positioning himself with his record as a man of age, a career politician, that has changed with the times and is human in his maturing and changing over the years. It has to be said that he has also done a great job in highlighting issues of the election in a light of optimism and speaking in more constructive and positive terms, also avoiding name calling and negative ads, which can’t be said for his opponents. Brown is on a roll with great poll numbers and alliances with powerful players to get through the primaries unopposed and unscathed. When the debates start is when he may be tested, but by then there will be so much negative press for his opponents that it seems he will have no problem cutting them down as inexperienced opportunists with very negative, short histories in his beloved state.
Now we come to Meg Whitman…wow, this woman is running an insane campaign right now that seems to keep springing leaks that money can’t plug. Most recently she has had to contend with tax returns that only further highlight her inabilities as a recent conservative convert and business woman. Recent tax returns show that a foundation she is a director of contributed $200,000 dollars to the Environmental Defense Agency in the struggling delta of California. This is the same group that, since running for Governor, she has criticized and come out against as an opponent of development and farming jobs. She gave the group she is campaigning against money to support them, odd to say the least. Being that she only recently started voting, and the fact the only more recently she registered republican, in addition to he funding of projects she now opposes shows she is trying to pander to the conservative right to get in to office without regard for what she really believes.
If this weren’t enough two other facts have come out to destroy her claim of being a savvy business woman. I have written before of her poor record of running Ebay in the last few years at the company, nearly ruining Skype, and now there is more facts to support this claim. As with many different foundations in 2008 it took a bit of a hit with the failing markets, but her foundation took it particularly hard, at the rate of nearly 50% loss of equity. This might have something to do, though, with the fact that about 79% of the company’s value was represented in Ebay stock at the start of 2008, by the end the number was closer to 15%. This coincides oddly with her sitting on the board of directors at Ebay until late 2008. at the start of the year stock value was at about $33 a share, when she left they sat at under $15, since she left Ebay entirely they have seen an increase of stock value to nearly $24 a share under the direction of new acting CEO Donahue. A weird coincidence to say the least; though some losses were inevitable in 2008, under her direction in the last few years, during a national crisis, she has not performed well to stop financial blood letting in ventures she participates in. Anyone can succeed in a good times, but we need someone who can succeed during crisis, her record speaks for itself on this front.
Where we find ourselves is at a point when the three big names in the campaign are at very different points of decision. I feel that Meg’s projected $150-million dollar campaign will get her to the general election, but that is simply because her GOP rivals just cannot compete with her name recognition and propaganda team. Brown will skate to the general election with ease and he has yet to officially be in the race. Poizner has some serious soul searching to do as he is not closing the lead Whitman has and has no chance against Brown if he made it to the general election. Poizner should try to save face, dropping out soon, and reload for a position in the state people give a crap about before he jumps in to the Governor’s race. The primaries will embarrass Poizner as Campbell and Whitman enjoy very large leads over him now, and Campbell has done less than anyone!
I think that the opportunistic, flawed politics of the GOP candidates is going to fail, it is not genuine and they will not be able to contend with Brown’s views and record as things like immigration, reform, and a history of service in California come in to play. Poizner and Whitman will lose some of the conservative base with their history and their position on abortion that pandering and flip flopping on other views won’t make up for. The hubris of the rich elitists will not sway the people of California when matched against the life of service Brown has tucked up his sleeve; this is the Achilles Heel that will become apparent as middle american California hits the voting booths.