Get There Faster Jerry
by Deacon Blues
How do you run against someone who will outspend you eight or 10:1 in a gubernatorial race in the country's largest state? Jerry Brown and his team hopefully have such a plan. If they do, it should assume that Meg Whitman will bombard the airwaves with lies and distortions, like she did in the primary against Steve Poizner and is now doing to Brown. It should also assume that Whitman's team will do everything they can to make voters forget how rightward she went during the primary as she now scrambles back to the center. If Brown and his team are capable, they'll exploit that and ask conservatives if they can really trust someone who has walked away from her own statements on immigration in an effort to appeal to hispanic voters.
Brown cannot compete with Whitman's war chest and cannot get sucked into a costly fight with scarce funds. If any campaign called for a classic Tier One/Tier Two effort, this is the race. Brown needs to have his allies and their expenditure committees carry the burden for the media campaign against Whitman's record and statements, letting them do the dirty work of continuously doing the fact checking and negative narrative-setting against Whitman, while Brown does a Tier One campaign that takes advantage of all free media he can get, and runs on the high road talking of the future as a guy who was doing this decades ago.
But there's a problem with the Brown campaign that Whitman picked at this week, which is partially true: Brown hasn't been fast enough in telling us what his plan is, and why he's running. Although Whitman's latest ad against Brown is characteristically misleading, it does point to the reality that Brown's team shows no talent for getting ahead of the curve in pre-empting Whitman's likely lines of attack. For instance, it shouldn't have been any surprise that Whitman picked public pensions as an argument, or that she went at Brown's role in enacting collective bargaining for public employees nearly thirty years ago. The real mystery is why Brown and his team didn't get there first with his own "Sista Souljah" moment on public pensions. Brown came out with a good plan this week, which basically was to roll state pensions back to where they were in 1999 and add additional good ideas to the mix, but this should have been rolled out by Brown right after the primary last month and not now after Whitman hit him on the issue. If Brown's people were really good however, they'd also ask why a corporate CEO like Whitman, who's taken advantage of a rich package of her own gets to criticize public servants over frugality.
Similarly, Brown's team needs to do what Karl Rove does so well: figure out your opponent's likely attack points and get there ahead of them by attacking the attacker. Whitman's team will go after Brown on his starving of transporation needs while governor, his judicial appointments record, the death penalty, and his overall flaky image cultivated by his opponents over the years. Brown should get there ahead of her by talking up not only alternative energy and jobs, but also transportation infrastructure investments to address decades of bipartisan gubernatorial disregard. He could also make fun of the "flaky" argument with his age, and ask voters what's so flaky about talking up alternate energy, law and order, and real reform? And to get ahead of her on taxes and spending, he should be talking about reforming the state tax code and budget practices, even if it means tackling sacred cows like Propositions 98 and 13.
He can point out that no one who's really honest about his record would claim that he was a spendthrift while governor. He can also say he's learned a lot from being a city mayor and the state's AG, that give him additional life experiences that Whitman doesn't have to prepare him for another stint as the state's chief executive. And he can continually remind voters that she certainly demonstrated her commitment to public service by not voting all those years. Lastly, as far as integrity is concerned, he and his surrogates should ask voters if they want a Republican outsider who talks a good game in front of hand-picked hero-worshipping crowds (just like Bush did), but so quickly changes her position on the issues just to get elected, especially when she can't be bothered to vote.
He needs to simply ask voters if they want a corporate CEO without government experience or commitment, who is strongly backed by the same people who supported George W. Bush and uses the same tactics, to take over California at this time.