A Los Angeles Times report that Republican gubernatorial candidate and billionaire Meg Whitman is planning to make a modest drop from her personal fortune into the campaign is in keeping with a Democratic strategist’s off-the-record predictions to me.
And the political calculations are rich.
A slight dip into her money bags — maybe $5 million or $6 million — won’t generate nearly as much press or criticism as a large drop, so it becomes less of a story and cuts into the narrative that she’s trying to buy the election.
“She would get credit for frugality and fiscal discipline, or at least, for ratcheting back, which shows she’s watching her money, even though she’ll wind up spending $150 million or whatever she plans to buy the election,” the Democratic strategist said.
The fact that she’s moved from minute-long TV ads to 30-second spots indicates, he said, that she’s been somewhat rattled by negative coverage of her exorbitant record spending — $46 million and counting. Thirty-second spots also are less intrusive to the viewer because they don’t take a full commercial break.
Ratcheting back also gives the impression that she’s less concerned about Republican rival Steve Poizner (a 50 percent lead in the polls will give you that luxury) and has moved on to a general election focus.
And since she’s shown a willingness to be the first with negative attacks — going negative on Poizner before he even got on air, and attacking Brown herself on the day he announced his candidacy — Democrats are anticipating a Whitman assault on Brown, soon.
“If you want to rough up Jerry, why not start on a negative track when you know he’s not spending to fight it off,” the strategist said.
Attacking Brown early would have the extra benefit of signaling to Republican primary voters that she’s moved beyond Poizner and assumed the GOP mantle, giving herself the veneer of inevitablity.
This Democrat thought the attacks on Brown would commence immediately. My prediction: the first ads attacking Brown will go up right around the time Democrats are gathering in Los Angeles for the state party convention, which runs from April 16-18.
That would step on any news Brown would like to make, create a buzz at the convention that drowns out the Democratic message, and force the Emerald City denizens to peer upwards to watch the smoky message being scrawled onto the blue skies.