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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Meg’s Spendathon

You may have heard that Republican Meg Whitman held a narrow lead over Democrat Jerry Brown in the latest Field Poll on the California’s governor’s race. But yesterday’s state reports on the spending of the candidates puts that in a better perspective.
EMeg (as the former eBay exec is often called) has spent a total of $46 million–most of it from her own fortune–on her gubernatorial bid so far, shattering every California spending record, months before the June primary and long before the November general election. Brown has spent a bit over $700,000, giving Whitman more than a 60-1 financial advantage. To put it another way, Whitman has already spent about as much as her political mentor, Mitt Romney, spent on his entire 2008 presidential campaign.
The fine Golden State political blog, Calbuzz, compared the Whitman and Brown spending records this way:

Our Division of Green Eye Shades and #2 Pencils calculates that if you take what Whitman has spent on private aircraft ($371,000), bookkeeping ($466,000) and catering ($113,000), it’s more than Jerry Brown has spent altogether ($716,000). The most catering cash –$67,800 – appears to have gone to Christopher’s Catering for a bunch of events, but our favorite is last May’s $10,962.69 paid to Wolfgang Puck for one event.

The bigger issue, of course, is that Whitman has been running saturation TV ads all across California, beginning with the Olympics, when she was far more ubiquitous than Apollo Ohno or Shaun White, and hasn’t let up since then (though she has recently shifted from a positive bio ad to attacks on conservative Republican rival Steve Poizner).
Whitman’s spending isn’t likely to slow down. Poizner has just launched his own ad blitz, and reportedly has $19 million stashed away for that purpose, and Meg has said she’s willing to spend $150 million on her own campaign before it’s all over.
Jerry Brown won’t be cash-strapped; he’s got $14 million in cash on hand, most of it raised before he even announced as a candidate, and will benefit from an estimated $40 million in independent expenditures by unions and other progressive groups.
It’s actually good news for Democrats that he’s basically even with Whitman after she’s spent like a waterfall and he’s spent like a bathtub trickle.

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