Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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California, Sans Surrogates

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One thing you can’t help but notice about this year’s election in California is the one thing missing from the campaign trail: famous surrogates and sidekicks.  

California 2010: big guns not welcome?


 On other words, where are the Obamas, Bill Clinton (Hillary already with a busy day job), Al Gore . . . either of the Presidents Bush, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani . . . ?  

And the list goes on . . .  

My guess:  

1) 4 out of 5 Californians think the state on the wrong track. Voters give bad grades to both the governor and the Legislature (I’m not making up these numbers — see for yourself). In other words, it’s not a good time to be a politician. And it probably doesn’t help much to have another politician come into the state and offer an “attaboy”.  

2)  My apologies to Shakespeare, but the fault lies not in ourselves, but the stars. Many of these figures are problematic, as far as a California candidacy is concerned.  

Let’s start with Barack Obama. No one can raise more money in a single event. But to campaign with the President begs a host of questions about his agenda, not the candidate’s. And most of those questions — health care, Afghanistan, spending and deficits — are defensive in nature. While it means plenty of coverage, the candidate’s message getting shoved aside. Not good. If you’re Barbara Boxer, you want to spend the day attacking Carly Fiorina, not justifying the choices made by the President and the Democratic Congress.  

As for Bill Clinton, check out this ad by Meg Whitman ad and you’ll see why the former prez won’t be stumping with Jerry Brown anytime soon. This is a big problem for the Brown campaign. The words hurt — more so, arguably, than anything Whitman has said to this point. And Clinton’s an important surrogate — comfort food for Democrats and independents here who remember the good economic times during his presidency.  

(L-R) Romney, Whitman, Wilson


 On the Republican side, Meg Whitman has done events with her business and political mentor, Mitt Romney. And Fiorina has welcomed the notion of Republican superstars — McCain, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown — as headliners at private fundraisers.  

However, Romney’s not exactly a conduit to the mainstream middle. Nor is McCain, having survived this year’s primary in Arizona in which he veered to the right, the same political “maverick” he was a decade ago.  

Come to think of, also missing in action as far as public candidate endorsements go: Arnold Schwarzenegger and his predecessor, Gray Davis (whose predecessor, Pete Wilson, has been out there publicly for Whitman).  

So where does this leave California’s candidates? Heaven forbid, mostly on their own. And that’s a good thing. Out-of-state visitors tend to be robotic in their campaigning. Far better for voters to concentrate on the folks actually on the ballot.  

One final Clinton footnote: good Democrat that he is, the former President put aside his hatred of Jerry Brown to come out to California in the fall of 1994 to campaign for Jerry’s sister, Kathleen, that year’s gubernatorial nominee. Problem was, Kathleen’s campaign was out of money and off the air. In other words, a bad use of the President’s time. Some have wondered if her big brother will suffer the same fate.  


Written by Bill Whalen

September 14, 2010 at 7:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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