February 27, 2010

Inquiring minds want to know: Scoop of the week honors to KTVU-TV in Oakland, which did the first story on new, 15-second eMeg spots attacking Steve Poizner, after some anonymous hero saw them suddenly turn up in the ad rotation and heads-upped the newsroom.

Channel 2’s Frank Sommerville did a report on “Mornings on 2,” about three hours before Poizner put out a release attacking eMeg for the attack, and about five hours before Team Whitman acknowledged the ads in their own release with its link to their “Why We Can’t Trust Steve Poizner” web site.

The key question — Why is Whitman bashing Poizner when she’s sitting on a 30-point lead?

The official line on that, from Sarah Pompei, Whitman’s volcanic mouthpiece, is that “our campaign strongly believes Californians deserve a lengthened debate between the candidates.” (We note, however, that debate just won’t be uncontrolled or in front of actual human beings like, oh say, delegates to her party’s state convention).

After talking to other analysts and Dem and Reep consultants, we’ve got some more believable theories:

1) Meg’s got a glass jaw and she’s scared. Worried that her support is soft and that Poizner could smack her upside the head, the Armies of eMeg are a bit panicky and are striking out even though nobody knows who they’re talking about. (Steve Poizner: Isn’t he somebody’s insurance agent?) “Best case — she’s proactively pre-emptive; worst case — she bounces the rubble,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

2) She’s trying to drive him out of the race. Her consultants have done everything they can to cajole, bribe and threaten anyone in earshot in an effort to clear the field because eMeg does not want to run in a competitive primary. So it’s a last ditch attempt — $400,000 over four days, according to one GOP source — to convince Poizner not to run.

3) She’s hoping to kill the baby in the crib — to finish him off before he goes on the air. Who knows how much he could really spend. He’s damn near as rich as she is, so why couldn’t he spend 40 or 60 or 100 million dollars? Better to force him now to have to defend himself than to leave the path open for him to run positives for himself and negatives against her.

We think it’s a bit of all of the above. And we were, frankly, surprised to see eMeg rip into the Commish when she’s sitting on such a big fat lead. But then, we don’t think Stevie Wonder can be driven from the race, so all this negative airtime aimed at someone nobody knows seems kinda nutso to us. Unless you’re the media consultant getting 15% on the buy, of course.

We’re pretty sure the cry for a cease fire from folks like Bill Whalen, the former Pete Wilson operative now ensconced at the Hoover Institution, is pretty much a pipe dream.

“Which candidate is willing to move back to the high road and halt this destructive cycle before the Republicans produce what California Democrats want: a tarnished nominee?” Whalen asked.

Calbuzz bet: neither.

And the winner is: The prestigious Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry this week goes hands-down to Mark Paul, of the New America Foundation’s California Program, whose Friday piece in Calbuzz offered a moment of clarity about the state budget that should transform the way the issue is covered in the governor’s race.

Putting on a clinic of Actual Reporting, Paul not only shattered the easy demagoguery of every candidate who’s ever mouthed the phrase “waste, fraud and abuse,” but also put the lie to Meg Whitman’s bogus argument that she’ll fix everything by firing 40,000 surplus state employees.

Paul offered a healthy dose of fact-based reality to show that: a) the state is spending less this year than five years ago, despite population growth of two million people; b) the number of state employees per 1,000 Californians has declined over the last three decades; c) half of the bloated state workforce that eMeg is always caterwauling about consists of UC employees (many of whom are paid from independent sources) and guards and other workers in state prisons (many hired to keep up with demand generated by Three Strikes and other throw-away-the-key measures).

Excepting these two groups, the number of all other state employees has decreased over the last 30 years. So: The next time Her Megness talks about cutting 40,000 workers, she can mean to do only one of three things:

1-Dump UC staff and faculty.

2-Fire many thousands of corrections officers, necessitating the early release of many thousands of felons.

3-Cut other state programs – which ones, please? – to 1970s levels.

…if you examine California state government as a business, one of the first things you are likely to notice is how few people it employs compared to others in its “industry.” Over that past decade, California has ranked between 46th and 50th among the states in the annual federal listing comparing state workforces to population; its state workforce is about 25 percent smaller than the national average.

Mark’s piece is a must-read. It’s here.

To read entire story, click here.