Is it really almost over? California Republicans' Golden Parachute Twins, billionaire Meg Whitman and ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, are bringing distinctly odd notes to their closing efforts to catch Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer in the races for governor and U.S. senator.
The last Field Poll of the election season places Brown in the lead over Whitman, 49% to 39%, in the race to succeed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Boxer ahead of Fiorina, 49% to 41%. I have tracking poll numbers from three very reliable pollsters who have Brown's lead in that vicinity and Boxer's a bit lower.
The California Democratic Party launched this ad for Jerry Brown. "The Most Interesting Man in California" is based on the award-winning Dos Equis ads.
Fiorina spent the Tuesday and Wednesday of her final campaign week in the hospital from complications with her breast cancer reconstructive surgery. National Republican groups, believing the race was closing rapidly last week, and not knowing of her health issue, poured millions into the state to help Fiorina, but the last Field Poll shows Boxer eights points ahead. They may wish they'd spent that money elsewhere come Tuesday night.
Whitman, who must be wondering how she's fallen behind the ever controversial Brown despite overwhelming all her opponents' spending combined with her record-shattering campaign spending, is bopping around the state visiting diners to humanize her image after getting booed at Maria Shriver's annual Women's Conference for churlishly refusing to pull her negative ads. Naturally, her advertising continues to be highly negative.
But the Whitman humanization drive hit ran into the ditch on Wednesday when the billionaire, smile frozen in place, told Fox News that "it breaks my heart" but her longtime illegal immigrant housekeeper Nicky Diaz -- "who was just like a member of the family" -- really must be deported. (Funny how that didn't occur to her years ago when she learned that Diaz's Social Security number was bogus.) She flip-flopped on this the next day, naturally, pulling back and calling immigration a "federal issue," thus once again demonstrating her deep contradictions on the issue.
But that's hardly the oddest of notes the former McCain/Palin national co-chair struck this week. Before getting to those, let's look at what the Field Poll and others have found regarding the two races.
Essentially, Boxer's lead is less than that of Jerry Brown in his race to return to the governorship against Whitman, but they are doing roughly the same with voter groups, though Brown has taken a very slight lead among white voters while Boxer trails slightly among white voters.
Turning billionaire Meg Whitman's refusal to pull her attack ads into a rather clever attack ad, Brown called for a "Positive Finish" in this closing ad.
Like Brown, Boxer has big leads over Fiorina among women, Latinos, and independents. They have huge margins in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Los Angeles County. President Barack Obama's huge rally with Brown and Boxer at USC, drawing nearly 40,000 people, helped solidify the Democratic advantage in the vast LA media market.
But Boxer's not taking anything for granted. She's campaigning with fellow Senator Dianne Feinstein, who forcefully refutes Fiorina's rather fanciful notion that she's more like Feinstein than Boxer is.
But frankly, nothing that Fiorina can say can be more, er, questionable than Whitman's distinctly odd musings and moves.
Proclaiming "Polls, schmolls" as she angrily dismisses all the credible public polls showing Brown with a significant lead, Whitman cites her own internal polls, which variously purport to show her dead even, or even slightly ahead. Of course, these are being spun out by the same folks -- such as chief strategist Mike Murphy and spinner Rob Stutzman -- who did the very same thing in 2005 when they presided over Schwarzenegger's special election initiatives debacle that nearly sunk his governorship.
Camp Whitman claims Brown is so worried over this purported dramatic development that he's canceled his schedule since the two of them appeared on Tuesday with Schwarzenegger at First Lady Maria Shriver's annual Women's Conference in Long Beach. And some reporters have bit on the notion.
I'm not aware that Brown has canceled anything. He did some TV interviews and had a speech in Orange County Friday night, at which he addressed the annual Golden Badge Awards ceremony for statewide law enforcement in his capacity as California's attorney general. Early Saturday morning, he embarked on a three-day whirlwind tour of the state, closing with a Monday evening rally in Oakland's Jack London Square near the converted warehouse he bought in the 1990s following his last presidential campaign.
This is one of Whitman's many non-positive finish ads. Whitman has run more negative advertising than any non-presidential candidate in American history.
What's he mostly been doing since Tuesday? Well, I told you that he is in charge of his own campaign for governor, didn't I?
After blowing it in spectacular fashion on Tuesday at Shriver's annual Women's Conference, Whitman went all-in on claiming victimization as her rationale for refusing to pull her negative advertising against Brown even if everyone else involved in the California governor's race pulls theirs.
The flailing Republican went on Fox News to claim that she's been called "a liar, a whore, and a Nazi," which she repeated in subsequent appearances.
Actually, she's only been called a liar. And with good reason, as she has amply demonstrated that she is a liar. No major candidate has ever had her or his advertising so excoriated and thoroughly debunked by fact-checking organizations. I've devoted thousands of words myself to her many dishonest statements and ads.
No one called her a whore, either.
Someone, in what is almost certainly an illegally recorded private conversation, suggested typing her as a political whore for reneging on her supposed commitment to public pensions reform. Whitman's campaign had a bogus transcript of the conversation produced and disseminated and falsely claimed that Brown himself had uttered the word, which is a commonplace in describing sell-out political behavior. No one has suggested that Whitman made her fortune providing sexual services.
I then revealed that not only was it not Brown himself who said it, it was not a man, either. Whitman knows very well that it was a woman, yet had her campaign lie in order to cast herself as a victim and distract from her illegal immigration scandal.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger railed against the oil companies behind Proposition 23, the trailing initiative to do away with California's landmark climate change/renewable energy program. Brown is also campaigning against the initiative.
She wasn't called a Nazi, either. Brown, in conversation while taking a jogging break a few weeks before the June primary, got into a conversation with someone he didn't know who turned out to be a local radio reporter. This person, who appears on the air on a daily basis, sat on whatever it was that was said, then posted an account on his little-known blog right after the primary as Brown was spinning up campaign activity against the newly nominated Whitman.
No one noticed but the Whitman campaign, which immediately got the report featured on the Drudge Report. Not that there's anything the least suspicious about the sequence of events.
Even the local radio reporter doesn't claim that Brown called Whitman a Nazi. In his very detailed rendition of Brown's comments, which he neither recorded nor took note of, Brown said that the Whitman campaign is following the propaganda techniques of Joseph Goebbels. Brown was then reading a book about the father of "Big Lie" propaganda campaigns. Which was not noted in the blog report.
But all that is water under the bridge.
For his part, Brown kept calling for days on all participants in the governor's race to cease all negative advertising. Not that he actually expected the trailing Whitman to agree. In fact, in a neat irony, he has a closing ad attacking Whitman for not pulling her attack ads.
While there are other serious contenders for Whitman's oddest note of the week, I'd say it is her World Series bet with the governor of Texas. The National League champion San Francisco Giants are taking on the American League champion Texas Rangers in the World Series, and have taken the lead.
It's customary for governors whose state teams are in the top championship events to bet on the outcome, as Schwarzenegger has done the last two seasons on the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
But there's no bet on the World Series between Schwarzenegger and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Is that because there's no love lost between them?
I'm only speculating, of course, but I recall in fall 2007 when Schwarzenegger delivered what he viewed as one of his key speeches, to the California Republican Party convention outside Palm Springs. I went over the speech beforehand and wrote a column previewing the speech, in which the landslide re-election winner of the November past called on his rightward-leaning party to head more towards the center.
Jerry Brown embarked on a three-day statewide tour, Saturday through Monday. I think of it as the "No Bull / No Bulworth Tour." To strategically adjust what a certain former governor and presidential contender said about vagueness: A little candor goes a long way in this business. Incidentally, did you ever notice that Warren Beatty gave Jay Bulworth the same initials as Jerry Brown?
The speech fell largely flat.
Schwarzenegger was then followed by, yes, Texas Governor Rick Perry. Who served up a heaping dish of far right red meat which the California convention delegates lapped up with glee.
Driving away from the convention the next day, I called Jerry Brown and told him it occurred to me that California Republicans were heading hard right, and that anyone who emerged from a competitive Republican primary could be beaten for the governorship.
Even someone who has broken all spending records for a non-presidential campaign in American history.
Speaking of which, Whitman showed just how pretentious she is by taking it upon herself to represent California in a bet with Texas on the World Series outcome.
Whitman bet Perry, whose Texas administration she repeatedly praises as a model venture, a California surfboard against a pair of Texas cowboy boots.
Whitman does deserve a souvenir from this monstrously expensive experience, so my recommendation is that she get Perry to give her a pair of Lucchese boots. They're what I've worn since the early '90s. (Schwarzenegger gave Russian President Dmitry Medvedev a pair of Luccheses.) Once they're broken in, they feel great, and with proper care and refurbishing, they last and last. So they can remind her forever of when she pretended to be governor.