A Meg (Campaign) Makeover
I have an opinion piece in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee discussing the California GOP’s chances of winning statewide races this fall (governor, U.S. Senate, lieutenant governor and attorney general all are in play, imo).And I have some suggestions for Team Whitman, for how to run a stronger campaign that helps the folks further down the ticket.
1) Unleashing Mike Murphy. It was Murphy, the mad-monk GOP consultant and one of small army of hired guns currently on the Whitman payroll, who turned Schwarzenegger’s recall run into the car-smashing, bus-caravanning blockbuster. It’s also Murphy’s history to figure how to adapt Republicans to hostile blue-state climates (Mitt Romney in Massachusetts; John Engler in Michigan). Whitman should make Murphy her campaign’s undisputed capo dei capi and let the creativity flow.
2) Getting specific. One way Schwarzenegger won over wary voters was by offering a detailed to-do list: rolling back the vehicle license fee increase, reforming workers’ comp, undoing drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens. Whitman’s campaign has been long on generalities – creating jobs, controlling spending – and woefully short on specifics. It’s time for her to say what she’d do on Day One – and force the even fuzzier Jerry Brown into a dialogue about vision and priorities (that’s also a roundabout way for the younger Whitman to use the age disparity in this contest against the elder Brown).
3) A (campaigning) style makeover. Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton brought the town-hall meeting into vogue. Today, after a million hours of John McCain “straight talk,” it’s a stale format – or so it seemed in the GOP primary. Given that Democratic-friendly independent-expenditure campaigns will spend millions of dollars trying to convince the electorate that Whitman is an overprivileged, aloof, Goldman Sachs-fed plutocrat from hell, it’s time for a warmer Meg: Let her mingle with real people, go to real workplaces. And, yes, spend some quality time with the press entourage.
4) Talking history and “herstory.” No woman has served as governor of California. Only one Republican woman has ever held a statewide constitutional office (Ivy Baker Priest, state treasurer during the Reagan years in Sacramento – and maybe best known as the mother of actress Pat Priest, who was television’s Marilyn Munster). This is history and “herstory” – a 53-year-old woman who turned a $4.7 million enterprise into a market monster. And, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, she found a way to take Information Age technology and fundamentally affect folks’ lifestyles. It’s a great story to tell, and one Meg Whitman should keep re-telling, having kept her gender and persona in check during the primary.
In the same paper, Democratic consultant Garry South takes a look at an election of first and ghosts.