Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Whitman, Poizner, the Chicken and the Egg

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It was a slow news day here in Northern California — rain, rain, and even more rain — until Team Whitman dropped this bomb on Team Poizner: Can’t Trust Steve.

I’ll spare you the details of the attack site and its accompanying tv ads, the purpose of which is to undermine Steve Poizner’s GOP credentials.

(Full disclosure: I advised Poizner during his 2004 Assembly run and consider him to be a friend; there are people on the Whitman campaign I like and respect, so no favoritism here.)

How'd this primary get so ugly?

And I’ll spare you from the chicken-or-the-egg discussion about whose negative tactics started this back-and-forth: Poizner or Meg Whitman.

Neither is a purist here.

The more salient question: which candidate is willing to move back to the high road and halt this destructive cycle before the Republicans produce what California Democrats want: a tarnished nominee?

(Sadly, the GOP U.S. Senate primary also has turned ugly in recent days, with charges of anti-Semitism masking the rounds.)

Because she leads in the polls and possesses the deeper campaign war chest than Poizner — and because she hasn’t exactly been a media-friendly candidate — watch for the press corps to lean on Whitman.

And watch for a not-so-nice word to enter the primary vernacular when to comes to describing the former eBay chair: ruthless. It already did today, in the Los Angeles Times.

For Whitman, this is potentially a problem. Plenty of wealthy individuals have preceded her to public office — in California alone, Reps. Jane Harmon and Darrell Issa come to mind. As do Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

But here’s the trick: especially in Schwarzenegger’s case, they won after learning how to channel their wealth into a conversation about civic-mindedness and the nobility of public service, instead of what the press would rather talk about: privilege, spit balls and political jockeying.

And that’s what today’s announcement did. It had the press talking not substance but tactics: was it the best use of Meg’s mega-bucks, what it hoped to achieved, and whether Whitman was trying to bully Poizner out of the race.

And that’s an image the Whitman campaign doesn’t want: a political newcomer who seems . . . well, political

One thing for certain: with only 100 days left in the primary (as of this weekend), could a cease-fire last that long, assuming both sides are willing to lay down their weapons?

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Written by Bill Whalen

February 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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