Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Trouble on Page 9?

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It was easy to overlook last week’s PPIC poll of the California governor’s race.  The survey came out right about the same time Nicky Santillan and Gloria Allred held their first press conference (doesn’t that seem like ages ago?).

And it coincided with a conflicting CNN/Time magazine poll (distinctly different numbers — PPIC having Democrat Jerry Brown up by 1; CNN/Time giving him a 13-point advantage) that made the contentious race seem all the more confusing.

But deep inside the PPIC poll (that’s PPIC, as in the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California) are two findings that should concern Republican Meg Whitman’s campaign.

Click here, scroll down to page 9, and take a gander at the results under “candidate qualities”.

PPIC asked:

“People have different ideas about the qualifications they want when they vote for candidates for statewide office, such as governor or U.S. senator. Which of these is most important to you . . .”

The results: “experience in elected office” and “experience in running a business” broke even (44 %-43%, respectively) with Democrats supporting the former and Republicans the latter. No surprise there.

Here’s what should concern Team Whitman: independents went with “elected office” by a 46-39% margin. And these are the same independents who give low grades to Sacramento in general and lawmakers in particular.

But that’s not the only worrisome finding. PPIC also asked the following question:

“People have different ideas on how candidates for statewide office should pay for their political campaigns. Which of these do you view most positively? A candidate using mostly his or her own money to pay for political campaigning, or a candidate using mostly money collected from his or her supporters to pay for political campaigning.”

The results: “money collected from supporters” led, and it wasn’t even close (56% to a mere 32% for “his or her own money”.  The split among those difference-making independents? 56%-35%.

Granted, there are different ways to ask this question, which could produce different results. Make it “money collected from supporters and special interests”, for example, and I bet the margin narrows. And perhaps “self-funded” sounds better than “own money.”

Here’s my question: she’s been campaigning for the better part of two years, but has Meg Whitman sold the public on why she’s spent such an extraordinary sum on her gubernatorial effort?

And not “because it’s an expensive state”, or “there are a lot more Democrats, so it costs a lot more for a Republican to get out his message?”

Instead, has she made a lasting impression that each extra dollar of her own that she puts into her campaign is one less dollar taken from someone looking for a favor in Sacramento? PPIC’s findings suggest she hasn’t?

 And here you’d think, in the current political environment, that a self-funded candidate would have a certain moral, ethical advantage that would translate to popular support.

As for the other question — “experience in elected office” vs. “running a business” . . .

Perhaps what Whitman needs to do is be a lot more specific in what little time is left — and make more of an effort to tell voters what she’d do the first day, week and year in office.

Arnold Schwarzenegger did this during the recall election. Indeed, Arnold was true to his word, undoing the vehicle license-fee increase and calling the Legislature into concurrent extraordinary sessions to deal with workers’ comp reform, the budget mess and undoing a bill granting drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants on Day One.

Whitman did tell the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee that she’d impose a moratorium on new regulations during his first day on the job.  But is reg reform the sexiest sell she can come up with (and, as you can see here, it’s not exactly original: Arnold started down a similar path in November 2003)?

Or should she consider a longer laundry list to create the impression of — sorry, Arnold — an “action governor”?


Written by Bill Whalen

October 8, 2010 at 7:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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