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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bad Timing For eMeg

Get the picture: California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is locked in a close race with Jerry Brown. With the help of well over $100 million, she´s survived an unexpectedly tough primary and has managed to avoid the sort of right-wing issue positions that Republicans elsewhere are avidly embracing. But in heavily Democratic California, one of the few states in which President Obama´s approval ratings have remained in positive territory throughout the year, Whitman´s chances depend very strictly on two factors: her ability to win independent voters, and to win a better-than-average share of Latino voters. On the Latino front, a lot rides on her performance in tomorrow´s secnd gubernatorial debate, cosponsored by Univision and broadcast in Spanish as well as English.
So it´s not exactly great news for the Whitman campaign that at this particular moment she´s enmeshed in a media furor over allegations that she knowingly employed an illegal immigrant as a domestic servant for nine long years, only to abruptly fire her after beginning her current campaign.
Calbuzz explains the potential fallout:

Team Whitman responded swiftly when word broke on TMZ that [attorney Gloria] Allred had called a press conference with “explosive” allegations by the candidate’s former maid. Strategists did their best to a) preempt the presser by sliming Allred, one of L.A.’s most notorious celebrity lawyers and b) argue through the media about social security cards, employment applications and a host of other documents that they insisted prove conclusively that eMeg is pure as the driven snow in the matter.
At the end of the day, despite her team’s yeomen efforts at damage control, Whitman had been knocked way off message and was entangled in a gnarly web of charges and counter-charges, caught in the worst position for any political candidate: defensively explaining herself.
As a political matter, the most significant impact of the flap on the campaign will come, in still-undetermined magnitude, in Whitman’s multi-million dollar effort to take enough Latino votes away from Democrat Jerry Brown to help push her over the top on November 2.

Aside from the danger of looking insensitive to Latino voters, Whitman must be concerned that indies, and even some conservative Republicans, won´t be real happy with her employment of an illegal immigrant for nine years. And the whole situation, of course, is a reminder of her wealth and privilege.
Republicans, of course, are claiming the furor was manufactured by California Democrats, if not the Brown campaign itself, but wherever it came from, it makes you wonder if this most methodical of candidates might have a few more gears ready to squeak between now and November 2. Jerry Brown, who has been in the public spotlight in California for forty years, and whose instinct is to take advantage of, not defensively cover up, attacks on his record and character, is probably a lot less vulnerable to this kind of news from nowhere.

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