Steve Poizner

February 23, 2010

Meg Whitman’s capture of the influential endorsement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association is a big blow to Steve Poizner’s inside game campaign approach. So the key, emerging question for The Commish in the race for the Republican nomination for governor is: does he have an outside game?

For months, Poizner has pursued a tortoise-beats-the-hare game plan, patiently traveling the state, appearing at every conservative talk show and ed board that asked and rounding up grassroots endorsements from no-name local elected officials and GOP county committee chairmen.

All of which would be just ducky in giving him an organizational boost – if anybody had ever heard of the guy. As it is, Single Digit Steve is in danger of becoming the Willy Loman of Republican politics, selling his wares door-to-door in pursuit of a campaign of tactics, while eMeg blows him away with an on-the-airwaves strategic effort.

“Steve had a lot going for him, and hasn’t seemed to capitalize,” said one longtime, high-ranking Republican insider. “He has a very good message, is very focused, and would be a solid governor. But he’s played too much of the inside game and needs now to ramp up the outside game.”

It’s instructive on this point to read Steve Harmon’s intriguing piece about the state of the Poizner campaign in the Contra Costa Times. It’s hard to decide what was the worst news for Team Poizner in the Harmon report: a) that “wavering supporters” are criticizing the operation anonymously; b) that some of them even snitched out campaign intelligence to the Whitman camp or; c) that the grand strategy for the Commish is to win the primary with a last-month blitzgrieg broadcast attack on eMeg.

Calbuzz votes for c).

Steve Poizner is prepared to hold his fire against Meg Whitman…until the final month of the primary campaign, according to wavering supporters who were told of the strategy in an appeal for them to stay with him…

“It was fairly clear to me that they’re laying low and will continue to lay low until the final month,” (one such backer) added. “They may be proven to be a brilliant strategists (sic), but it’s making a lot of people nervous.”

As well it should.

With Poizner suffering a drip-drip-drip erosion of defecting supporters –- former Assembly GOP leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo is just the latest –- the eMeg-will-save-us-all cry is getting stronger, a trend that Monday’s Jarvis endorsement will only encourage.

The endorsement’s nonsensical claim that Whitman is a better bet to hold the line on taxes (no mention that relations between Poizner and the Jarvis group were strained by his shyness about going to the wallet to defeat Arnold’s special election initiatives last May) ignores the fact that it’s him, not her, who embraces across-the-board tax cuts; him, not her, who opposes Arnold’s big water bond; and him, not her, who denounces to the heavens eMeg campaign chairman Pete Wilson’s $7 billion record tax increase, back when PiWi was governor.

To our ears, it sounds like opportunistic Jarvis Association president Jon Coupal let the cat out of the bag during an interview with Bakersfield conservative yakker Inga Barks, a few hours after the endorsement was announced:

“The three scariest words in the California lexicon right now are ‘Governor Jerry Brown,’ and right now she is head to head in a Democrat state, the Rasumussen poll has it 43-to-43 Meg even with him. And that, I’ll tell you, we can have the best candidate in the world and what good is that if they can’t win?”

The Jarvis endorsement demonstrates that Whitman’s electability argument is proving at least as persuasive among movement types as Poizner’s effort to make the case for ideological purity.

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