Do you smell that? That is the smell of March Madness in the air. It is that time of year when bets are laid and many start to find out all that they can about the competitors. This is that sacred month where the end is in sight and those involved can see their chances shaping up as they prepare to do battle for that sprint to the finish; ready to roll the dice in a no holds barred competition for that coveted top spot they have been working so hard for the last year. How fitting that this month named for Mars, the God of War, sees the beginning of the end for those that can’t pass muster and the ascension of those whose names shall be recorded in the history books of victory…and there’s a college basketball tournament, too. I of course am talking about the sprint to the 2010 California primary which has seen more action in the first half of March than in the whole of the campaigns so far, from Brown entering the race, Whitman hitting the airwaves on a ‘book tour’, a Republican debate, and even threatening messages received at the Poizner camp, which is ‘just politics’…ahhh, March.
This month really started off with the inevitable bang as Brown announced his official candidacy for governor. Though it was a small affair he did appear on Larry King that same day to further his cause. Brown entering is but a blip on the republican radar being that they are busy destroying each other and putting distance between their pasts and one another. But Brown coming in was a long anticipated move that, though anticlimactic, has him running unopposed in the primary with no opponent to debate, fight, sling mud at, or poke fun at. This situation leaves all eyes on Whitman and Poizner who are making quite a show for the sake of the political process and as such, they have all the headlines and attention right now.
It has been a veritable Whitman-palooza on the talk show and pundit circuit with Meg Whitman, or “eMeg” as she has been named by the newsertainment wizards, doing a little TV tour for her conveniently released new book titled “The Power of Many”. Oddly enough this release comes on the heels of Poizner directed smear commercials and campaign ads which she has had rolling over the air nonstop for months now. They have gotten especially distorted and salacious recently, so the timing of her benevolent new book should draw some attention from her negative ads. She has appeared everywhere from being narrowly escaping a Neil Cavuto verbal groping to sparring with Glenn Beck who made Whitman look downright moderate when matched with his anti-California rhetoric he was spewing. She also appeared on the Today Show with Matt Lauer where she did some very good campaign finance deflection and an extended segment on Morning Joe where she seemed to be fairly pandered with very softball/stump speech questions.
Whitman has done an amazing job in looking and sounding very capable and knowledgeable…in her field of business. There were a couple of little things I caught in her appearances though. Besides the aforementioned dodging of campaign budgets, she also explained a very counterintuitive idea she is toying with to cut costs. As she explains it her experience in business is always about doing more with less, and the first place she would cut overhead to try and balance a state budget is head count, i.e. state staff. The first thing she would do is fire employees to save money and streamline the government. This is of course after she has just highlighted the California is ranked 48th in job friendly states and has the second or third highest unemployment rate in the country. She does go on to explain that she will get people back to work in California…well she is gonna have to because if she gets elected about 40,000 state employees will be losing their jobs by the end of the quarter, but we’ll get you back to work soon.
Her 30 years in business has also taught her that we need to cut welfare time from five to two years and make people work for their welfare in order to cut costs in addition to working with the schools and teachers unions to cut costs in education while trying to get our 48th ranked K-12 education system up to the number one spot. She does all of this pontificating between those very perfectly coined phrases, of course the one she repeats on every single TV appearance in the one her mother taught her, who is in her new book “The Power of Many” on shelves now, that what we can do together we cannot do apart. If that were not vague enough for you I love that she talks of her potential constituents in such broads terms. “I think Californians are scared”, etc. I love that having never met me, or anyone I have ever met, that she knows that I am scared. It is audacious to tell me how I am feeling and then serve up cold-hearted corporate solutions on national TV that you think having some kind of soothing affect. More accurately I am pissed, appalled, and sick, and none of your ideas so far are the Vick’s Vapor Rub to what ails me.
All of this aside her team is masterfully pulling off a well orchestrated show between the seemingly benign and misleading commercials to the well-timed book tour on television, to even threatening messages sent by the Whitman campaign to Poizner’s offices. What, you say? Yes, there were messages to Poizner from a staff member for Whitman threatening him and pleading with him to drop out of the race or they would destroy him and his career. Whitman initially disavowed all knowledge of the threats, but only days later admitted she knew what was happening and the purpose behind the messages. If memory serves me right she not-so-coolly huffed it off as just politics today. Her tone may have been fairly gentile, but the statement drips with audacity, as if threats should be acceptable as part of the political process without so much as a second thought. A little light has shown on the stripes of our fair and gracious leader as much as it has shown on her opposition.
Then finally there was the debate this week. I had hoped for a show stopper, something so shocking and racy that to air it would have needed a pay-per-view subscription. Alas, what did occur was a white gloved verbal duel where both opponents were pulling punches and doing nothing more than throwing together excerpts from their favorite speeches and the policy choices that polled the best. I would have loved to hear about past voting records, cross-party contributions, questions on the ebay-craigslist trials, and some queries as to the validity if those threats. Anything would have been better than the mind numbing hour of cordial talking on a stage that went on. It was so hyped, for months just trying to get one to happen, and what followed was a jaw warbling session that didn’t move anyones support meter either way, therefore it went to Whitman. Much like tie going to the runner in baseball, the claim of victory in debate goes to the most recent poll leader, and that is Whitman in spades.
I can’t put my finger on what makes eMeg such a powerhouse. It might be that she has been flooding the airwaves with her face and message. It might be the simple moniker of former President and CEO of eBay, a steadfast cornerstone of modern americana. What seems to make the most sense in relation to the polls is a combination of her ad campaign budget and Poizner’s apparent weakness. Poizner is no master orator. His speaking voice leaves much to be desired with an accountant’s tone that hints at a slight waver, something I noticed in the debate. One could not say for sure, but I would not scoff at him seeming weak by wearing glasses, some Lasik might do him wonders to seem relatively stronger on TV and in debates, though he would not be able to pull a dramatic David Caruso move to make a point. Whatever it is, Whitman seems to come across to the people as a very competent, and most importantly shrewd, business woman; she hides have fangs well and Poizner’s accomplishments with GPS in cell phones is not glamorous enough to give him any in the eyes of Joe the Plumber.
This has been a very exciting month not only for specific happenings, but the visibility that is coming from the republican party. These candidates are now getting their faces all over the place with any half-cocked idea as to why. Meg “wrote” a book for God’s sake. The circus is putting up the big tent and these performers are pulling out all the stops and all the dirty tricks. Whitman is just smashing Poizner when she can and is getting more attention, but Poizner seems to just be talking it and oddly biding his time, if he is smarter than he looks then that is his plan. If he is as dumb as he looks then he just doesn’t know that he has lost yet and is in there hoping that Whitman might tucker herself out with all her crafty and nasty tricks. Unlikely, seeing as she is a 30 point leader over him in the polls and Poizner sounds like a nerd that should be doing my taxes, not leading my state. The gloves are off and the Republican candidates are striking blows at one another. Mars would be giddy to look down on the month March and see the battle being waged within its weeks; oh one tip though, don’t pick Purdue to get out of the second round, if even that, sleeper tip. Go, March Madness!