GOP Dispatches: Day 2

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Dispatches from day two of this weekend's California GOP confab from my KQED colleague, Scott Shafer.

Meg-a Problem? Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman gave a somewhat lackluster speech to the state Republican convention Saturday afternoon. She touched on all her usual themes -- cutting taxes and regulation, staying tough on crime, etc. But one thing she didn't mention was her personal voting record.

In the past, she's acknowledged that she "missed a few elections" but this week's Sac Bee article reported that Whitman didn't register for 28 years and even missed some elections after registering in 2002.

Whitman faced the media mob after her luncheon remarks -- and it wasn't pretty. She tried sticking to the answer she's given before about her voting record. "It was wrong. I should have voted more often," etc. But she declined -- despite repeated questions -- to say why she hadn't bothered to vote. As the questioning went on Whitman became more agitated -- pointing a finger at a pesky reporter who pushed her to answer a question, saying "I will, just give me a chance, OK?"

Is this the case of another CEO realizing that in politics, you don't get to call all the shots without being questioned? Or just a political neophyte getting her sea legs?

CAMPBELL'S SOUP: Tom Campbell was billed as the featured speaker at Friday night's dinner at the GOP convention in Indian Wells. But Campbell, introduced by party chair Ron Nehring as "the nicest guy in California politics" -- paging Leo Durocher -- was left to cool his heels as three other speakers (including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) preceded him.

The odd part was who the party had speak before him. Bill Mundell, chairman of ZBB Energy, gave a quirky, rambling speech calling for "an economic revolution" centered around selling off public assets, including the DMV. Mundell rambled on for 30 minutes, leaving the audience checking their Blackberrys and giving each other looks of despair and disbelief.

By the time Campbell spoke, there were dozens of empty seats in the room and the energy had completely gone out of the dinner. Not the introduction he was looking for.

By the way, the stage where Governor Schwarzenegger spoke was decorated with no fewer than eight framed pictures of Ronald Reagan -- and none of Arnold. It's still the party of Reagan.

-- Scott Shafer

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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