Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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CA Gov’s Race: All’s Not Quiet on the Western Front . . . and Other 1914 Analogies

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When I was a kid, the neighborhood boys would gather afternoons for whiffleball games. 

And it wasn’t long before a few of the balls landed on the roof of our neighbor, Mrs. Cancellari, who’d promptly come storming out onto her front porch and threaten to call the cops if we didn’t take the game elsewhere. Of course, we listened to her. 

I recalled Mrs. C after reporters started calling me this afternoon with regard to the latest flare-up between the Whitman and Poizner gubernatorial campaigns — namely, an email sent last week by Whitman consultant Mike Murphy to an unnamed Poizner aide suggesting that Poizner reconsider his run. 

Party like it's . . . 1914?

Poizner’s reaction? 

He went a step further than Mrs Cancellari. 

He called the cops. 

This isn’t whiffleball — it’s plain old political hardball. And, in this case, Mike Murphy knows what he’s doing (here’s a link to Murphy’s missive and Poizner’s response).

I’ll let you decide if it’s criminal, or just free speech (nothing in the high-stakes Whitman-Poizner race being free, of course). 

In the meantime, let’s read between the lines of the email in question, to give you a better appreciation of why Mr. Murphy is very good at what he does: 

“I hate the idea of us each spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a damaged nominee.” 

Translation: you know this, I know this .  . . now I want the media to write about it, since they can’t resist the Republican circular firing squad story. 

“And we can spend $40 million+ tearing up Steve if we must; bad for him, bad for us, and a crazy waste to tear up a gy with great future statewide potential — really the only guy on the GOP bench for the future.” 

Translation: “Anything you can do, I can do better”. I see you negative dollar and raise you a dollar. The window for getting out of this race and seeking a second term as Insurance Commissioner is closing fast. 

“We could unite entire party behind Steve right now to build a serious race against Dianne F. in 2012. Could be a strong GOP year and DiFi will be 78 or 79 years old.” 

Translation: “You’ll never work in this town again.” Spend $20 million against Meg on what’s, in effect, free advertising for Jerry Brown, and her people will remember you long after this cycle is over.  (For the record, Sen. Feinstein turns 77 this summer)  

“Thought I’d try one more time before it’s 1914.” 

 Indeed, a Republican war of attrition, ending in an uneasy armistice — and other war in 25 years, if not a lot sooner. 

As for Poizner’s response, he called a press conference earlier today and released a letter he’s sent to the FBI, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, the U.S. Attorneys Office and, ironically, state Attorney General Jerry Brown (don’t bet on Jerry getting into — remember what Napoleon said about engaging the enemy?) 

Poizner’s contention: he doesn’t like being threatened with $40 million worth of mud, and doesn’t appreciate being paid off with even the implied prospect of a Senate seat in 2012.  “This is not an attempt to be hardball and to be aggressive,” Poizner maintained, “but this is an attempt to effectively manipulate the election process, the integrity of the election process, by issuing these threats behind the scenes to get me not to run.” 

Let’s see how long the media run with the story. 

And, for that matter, what the Whitman campaign does next to keep up the “time for Poizner to consider his options” drumbeat in  the press.


Written by Bill Whalen

February 1, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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