Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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“Echo”-ing Across California

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“I will not change my beliefs to win votes. I will offer a choice, not an echo.”

– Barry Goldwater, presidential campaign announcement, 1/03/1964

Forty-six years ago, Barry Goldwater was on the wrong side of a landslide election — the author of a presidential run notable for two things: (1) its absolute adherence to principles, no matter the political implications; (2) introducing future candidate Ronald Reagan to the American electorate via his memorable “Time for Choosing” speech.

Fast-forward to 2010 and the concept of “choice, not an echo” has reemerged in California’s governor’s race. And, this time, it’s the Democrat running with it.

Jerry Brown’s latest tv ad (title: “Echo”) is nothing more than side-by-side audio-visuals of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republican candidate Meg Whitman uttering far-too-similar sound bites (Arnold first, Meg second, on all sorts of things from leadership to taxes and spending).

Is the ad effective? Yes.

Here’s why:

1) In a “change” election, it’s a clever way of positioning Brown, the four-decade career politician and 16-year veteran of various statewide offices, rather than Whitman (first race, never has held office) as the “breath of fresh air” candidate in the race.

 2) It makes Whitman walk the “Arnold tightrope” — lauding the big man so as not to offend independents, but also criticizing him so as not to offend core Republicans. Californians are conflicted about Schwarzenegger: they give him low marks as governor, but they don’t personally revile him. Brown also has to tread carefully re. Schwarzenegger, but his campaign smartly recognizes theat the burden lies with a Republican hopeful looking to replace a Republican incumbent.

3) It puts Whitman on the defensive as a scripted, consultant-drive candidate. Whitman’s surrounded by former Schwarzenegger campaign and gubernatorial aides. No harm there. And it’s perfectly forgivable if her campaign adopts similar tactics, like Meg’s current bus tour (which he got from Arnold, who got it from John McCain — all of whom hired Mike Murphy). We forget that Arnold twice has won statewide elections, which is two more wins than most other Republicans can claim.

But the same words? Not good.

We’ll find out soon enough how Schwarzenegger feels about all of this — in particular, what a man who takes his popularity very seriously and wants to be thought of as a political nonconformist thinks about being used as a cudgel by rival candidates.

Next Tuesday, Arnold, Jerry and Meg are scheduled to get together at California First Lady Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference in Long Beach and discuss “Who We Are, Where We Are Going.”

Who we are? That’s easy. Meg’s Arnold . . . Jerry’s Barry.

Where are we going? Let’s see if any of the three — governors past, present and future — can answer that one.

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Written by Bill Whalen

October 20, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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