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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Whitman, Fiorina Not Likely to Inspire Jobless Voters

The MSM is having quite a gush-fest about the Fiorina and Whitman primary wins in California. Fresh faces, huge amounts of campaign cash, historic wins for GOP women and all that. Dem nominees Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer begin their races dwarfed by a tidal wave of overwhelmingly favorable coverage for their opponents.
If not for Fiorina’s “so yesterday” gaffe about Senator Boxer’s hairdo, she would have gotten the same free ride that the bedazzled media has given Whitman since Tuesday. Boxer and Brown no doubt write it off as a familiar pattern of media coverage. The new kid usually gets the breathless MSM buzz after primaries, especially in a political year that has been roundly designated as a bummer for incumbents.
But it won’t be long before the sobering demographic realities of the California electorate force a reassessment among the punditry. In his WaPo op-ed, “Calif. GOP Primary Winners Look Headed for Defeat,” Harold Meyerson explains,

…California Republican primaries have a nasty habit of rendering their winners unelectable in November, and this year’s contest looks like it will be no exception. To win, Whitman and Fiorina — conventional conservative business Republicans both — had to take positions so far to the right that their chances of winning a state in which Barack Obama commands a 59 percent approval rating are slim. During one debate with her Republican opponents, Fiorina affirmed the right of suspected terrorists on no-fly lists to buy guns, presumably lest the gods of the National Rifle Association strike her dead on the spot. At a campaign event at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday, Boxer, never one to let a hanging curveball go unswatted, contrasted Fiorina’s guns-to-terrorists stance with her own co-authorship of a law allowing pilots to carry guns in cockpits.

And then there is the thorniest (for Republicans) of issues:

But the issue most damaging for Whitman and Fiorina is immigration. Pressed by their GOP primary opponents and the Republican electorate to endorse Arizona’s draconian new law, Fiorina proclaimed her support for it while Whitman countered the charges from her right that she was soft on immigration by affirming that she was “100 percent against amnesty” and demanding a huge increase in border enforcement. To bolster her credibility, her ads featured former Republican governor Pete Wilson — champion of 1994’s Proposition 187, which would have denied all public services, including the right to attend primary and secondary schools, to illegal immigrants.
Wilson won reelection in 1994 by backing 187, which the courts subsequently struck down. But his victory was probably the most pyrrhic in modern American politics. Threatened and enraged by 187, California’s Latino immigrants began naturalizing, registering and voting in record numbers. Southern California’s Latino-led labor movement — the most energized and strategically savvy labor movement in the nation — became particularly adept at turning out Latino voters for Democratic candidates and causes.
…the California electorate has been transformed — moving the state decisively into the Democratic column. In the 1994 election, according to the nonprofit William C. Velásquez Institute, which seeks to raise minorities’ political and economic participation, Latinos counted for 11.4 percent of California voters. By 2008, they comprised 21.4 percent. And particularly when immigration is an issue, theirs is a heavily Democratic vote. “There’s a whole generation of Latino voters who don’t believe the Republicans look out for them,” Maria Elena Durazo, who heads the Los Angeles County AFL-CIO, told me on Election Day. “We ran against Pete Wilson for years after he was out of office. And, voilà! He’s back — he’s vouching for Whitman!” Labor will make sure the Latino community knows it. Already, the California Nurses Association is running an ad on Spanish-language radio that splices in a clip from a Whitman primary commercial in which she and Wilson discuss cracking down on immigration.

Meyerson concludes,

It’s not just that Republican nativism pushes perhaps a fifth of the electorate into the Democratic column. It’s that the state’s Republicans are simply far to the right of the majority of Californians — so much so that they do not have a majority of registered voters in any one of the state’s 53 congressional districts…In winning their nominations, they [Whitman and Fiorina] said things deeply offensive to a fatally large swath of California voters. Their campaigns may be gold-plated, but they have ears of purest tin.

Add to that the fact that Jerry Brown may be one of the most battle-seasoned candidates in history, having won grueling campaigns for Governor of California, Mayor of Oakland, CA Attorney-General and having won and lost presidential primaries. The media didn’t cover his comments well, but Brown will not be giving Whitman an easy time of it. He has already blasted Whitman for spending $71 million on her primary campaign, and added in his recent press conference,

“She paid herself $120 million, and then EBay had to lay off 10 percent of its workforce. Now, is that waste and abuse? Is that what you want?”

In stark contrast, Brown had an impressive record of budget management and job creation during his stint as governor, while living a life of unprecedented austerity for the chief executive of the nation’s largest state. As Brown noted in his news conference,

When I was governor of California, we built up the largest surplus in history — $4.5 billion. We created 1.9 million jobs. We reduced taxes by billions

Whitman has already gone into handler-imposed seclusion, issuing lame statements about Brown’s website not being up to snuff and bragging about her issues brochure, which Brown derided for being lavishly illustrated with photos, but way short on substance. Californians worried about their job security, pensions and education of their children are not likely to prefer Whitman’s track record to Brown’s.
As for Fiorina, last year the biz rag web site ‘Condé Nast Portfolio’ designated Fiorina as one of “The 20 Worst American CEOs of All Time“, noting also,

A consummate self-promoter, Fiorina was busy pontificating on the lecture circuit and posing for magazine covers while her company floundered. She paid herself handsome bonuses and perks while laying off thousands of employees to cut costs. The merger Fiorina orchestrated with Compaq in 2002 was widely seen as a failure. She was ousted in 2005…HP stock lost half its value during Fiorina’s tenure.

Not a track record to inspire working people to vote for her, either.
If Whitman and Fiorina had been business leaders who had track records of living modestly while keeping concerns for their employees front and center, maybe Brown and Boxer would have more to worry about. As Republicans, however, both Fiorina and Whitman have more in common with Gordon Gekko than Abe Lincoln. The guess here is that the working people of California ain’t having it.

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