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Post-Mortem On California Governor Campaign: GOP Brand And Whitman Both Lousy

| January 24, 2011
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At the quadrennial post-mortem on the California governor’s race held by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, there was an elephant not in the room.

Becoming “the first gubernatorial campaign in the history of the prestigious academic symposium” to miss the event, the San Francisco Chronicle states, the Whitman campaign declined to participate.

Well I guess it’s sort of like asking the guys who designed the Titanic to talk about that little iceberg incident, and the future of shipbuilding. Whitman spent $160 million in her 13-point shellacking, far more than Jerry Brown. As The Daily Show’s John Oliver told us, “what an excellent use of money that was…It is expensive not to get elected governor. I did it a lot more cheaply. It cost me zero dollars to not become governor of California.”

There was no one defending the GOP this weekend, apparently. Carla Marinucci’s Chronicle piece on the event blared this provocative headline: “GOP brand pronounced dead in deep-blue California.”

Some quotes from the article, and from a Bay Area News Group report:

“Republicans, as a brand, are dead,” Duf Sundheim, the former state GOP chair

“Republicans need to learn how to talk to non-traditional Republican voters,” said Bettina Inclan, who worked on the communications team for losing California GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner.

“There’s a brand problem,” agreed Republican Jim Brulte, former state Senate minority leader.

“We’ve become an island, a political island unto ourselves,” Thad Kousser, a political analyst from UC San Diego, said of California’s overwhelmingly blue streak in the November election.

Think about it,” Brulte said. “Jerry Brown was the governor when I was in high school, and he was the fresh new face” when his ads began running after Labor Day.

Rick Claussen, a Republican strategist, said Whitman “tried to buy an election, didn’t vote and was cold and uncaring,” while Brown “had the experience and will make the tough choices. I’m surprised he didn’t win by more than 13 points.”

Gale Kaufman, a Democratic strategist, said the dizzying array of ads Whitman produced “felt crazy…Every time you turned on the TV, there were four or five tracks of ads that were completely different. They were switching ads all the time. You had no idea what their strategy was and never had anyone explain it to me.”

“You take someone (former housekeeper Nicky Diaz Santillan) who you say was part of your family and call her a liar and a thief. That’s not helpful,” Brulte said to laughter from the audience.

“We didn’t need Nicky,” Trippi said. “We had other stuff.” The “stuff” included Whitman’s position opposing the Dream Act, which would have put young undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship.

Listen to the latest Capital Notes podcast for KQED’s John Myers, the LA Times’ Anthony York, and AP’s Juliet Williams doing their own campaign post-mortem, starting around 9:30 of the file.

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