Thursday, March 18, 2010

Last Call At The Alamo

Normally, I don't like to discuss polls very much - there are too many and are too easily framed to obtain a particular response - but the latest polls in the CA governor's race are worth a look. Their message: get used to more Meg Whitman: Whitman Takes Early Lead
Republican Meg Whitman's months-long advertising campaign is buying the billionaire, first-time candidate a precious political commodity: name recognition - and a virtual tie with Democrat Jerry Brown, a veteran of 40 years in politics, according to a Field Poll released today on California's gubernatorial race.

Whitman, the former eBay CEO who has poured $39 million into her campaign, also continued to thrash her rival in the GOP primary, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Among likely Republican primary voters, 63 percent preferred Whitman to 14 percent for Poizner. (emph. added)

Those numbers for Poizner are strikingly low, and he has no one to blame but himself. CA conservatives are always waiting to find the reddest candidate available - witness the competitive race for the Senate nomination. Poizner has been game and tried his best to act like the candidate from the district of Talk Radio. He even has just as much money as Whitman. And it hasn't worked.

For one thing, Poizner has not been able to put together a message that resonates with GOP primary voters. Poizner may have conservative positions, but they are years out of date. He spends inordinate amounts of time discussing the War of Terror, and burnishing his national security credentials. He has called for tax cuts, but has only recently begun to discuss spending cuts. And he keeps going on about illegal aliens, like it's 2006. (memo to GOP: if your insights in illegal immigrants involve the phrase "send the National Guard to the border" and nothing else, you are doing it wrong). Whitman, meanwhile, has focused on shrinking/reforming the size of CA's government and growing the state's economy. That's what voters want to hear about this year, for obvious reasons.

Poizner has also demonstrated that, even if he has political power, he is incapable of using it effectively. In addition to being a tech billionaire, Poizner is also - this can be hard to remember - the state insurance commissioner. In fact, he is the only Republican elected to state-wide office in CA. You might have heard that health insurance is an issue this year. Yet, Poizner has not used his bully pulpit, or regulatory power to put forward a free market argument for health insurance. Indeed, when Democrats demagogued Anthem's 39% premium increases a couple weeks ago, Poizner joined the mob, saying he would "look into" Anthem's actions. Poizner has shown a lot more enthusiasm for making sure that CA is free of insurance companies with links to Iran, not exactly a pressing issue compared to health care reform.

Bad political messaging, plus bad political instincts. Does Poizner have anything else on offer?

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