The return of “Queen Meg” Whitman?

Meg Whitman on Forbes cover 6-10-2013The new issue of Forbes magazine features Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman on the cover, but the headline harkens back to a less successful moment in her career.

“Meg Goes to War,” the headline proclaims. “Can the queen of Silicon Valley save its original startup?”

Whitman’s people should put a permanent kibosh on using the word “queen” anywhere near her name. It’s a cringe-worthy reminder of the “Queen Meg” guerrilla campaign tactic that the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United used against her during her 2010 gubernatorial run – a costumed performer impersonating Whitman as someone who thought herself above, and couldn’t be bothered by, the needs of the hoi polloi.

The Forbes story portrays Whitman as a CEO who wants to learn from her company’s mistakes in order to build a leaner, more competitive outfit. “She’s decisive without being abrasive, persuasive without being slick. She’s a team builder who knows that turnarounds call for repairing hundreds of small failings rather than betting everything on a miracle cure that might be a mirage.”

If that’s how she had run her $178.5 million campaign – with $144 million of that coming from her own pocket – we might be calling her Gov. Whitman right now.


Trying to get a grip on Meg Whitman’s bankroll

$144.2 million. That’s what 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman spent out of her own pocket on her failed campaign; the campaign’s total spending was $178.5 million when all was said and done, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday.

Chew on it for a second. $144.2 million. Gaaaaah! Cannot… contextualize. Maybe it’s because I live on a reporter’s salary – which was never great, and actually has gotten smaller in recent years – but I’m fascinated by the concept of being able to lay out that kind of money for anything. I’m dwelling on it. It’s probably not healthy.

I did a quick turn around the Interwebs to see what $144.2 million means in other contexts. That amount is also:

  • the entire government spending of the Federated States of Micronesia for 2005.
  • the adjusted sale price of Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (sold in 2006 for $135 million to billionaire businessman Ronald Lauder)
  • Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - Meg could've bought this.

  • the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2009 lobbying costs, the highest yearly lobbying expense ever reported
  • the amount appropriated by Congress in the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 to buy airport screening equipment for checked and carry-on baggage
  • the gross box-office take of Eddie Murphy’s “Dr. Doolittle
  • No, I’m still not feeling it. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be able to imagine $144.2 million in, and then out of, my pocket. Maybe it’s easier to visualize $34.93, which is what Whitman paid out of pocket for each vote she eventually got in November’s general election. $34.93 could buy you a pair of boots, or a computer daypack, or a knife-compass-and-spark-striker survival tool combo, or a yoga mat, or a pair of horse bookends.

    Aaaahhhh, that’s it – sweet, sweet context. A pair of horse bookends each for 4,127,391 voters.

    That’s about the same number of people as the combined populations of New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii, by the way.


    Highest turnout in past 5 gubernatorial votes

    The results are now certified, and California’s Nov. 2 election saw the greatest voter turnout – 59.6 percent of the state’s registered voters – in the past five gubernatorial votes, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reported this evening.

    “I applaud the work of each county elections official and the more than 100,000 elections workers and volunteers who helped to make voting as easy as possible for every eligible Californian,” Bowen said in a news release.

    Looking back, 56.2 percent of registered voters participated in the 2006 gubernatorial election; voter turnout for the 2002 gubernatorial election was 50.6 percent; and 57.6 percent of registered voters turned out in 1998. So last month’s was the highest gubernatorial election turnout since 60.5 percent of voters cast ballots when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson topped Democrat State Treasurer Kathleen Brown in 1994.

    Was it Meg Whitman’s deep pockets, either directly or in backlash, that accounted for this surge to the polls? Was it the question of marijuana legalization? Was it part of the national political furor? All of those things, or none? Have at it, commenters.

    Ballots cast by mail accounted for 48.4 percent of the votes cast in last month’s election; that’s up from 41.6 percent in 2006. The counties with the highest vote-by-mail voters as a percentage of total turnout were Mendocino (79.4 percent), Nevada (73.9 percent) and El Dorado (70.5 percent), though all voters in Alpine and Sierra counties cast ballots by mail.

    “Vote-by-mail voting has steadily increased in popularity over the last 32 years since the law was changed to allow any registered voter to vote by mail,” Bowen said.

    Overall, the counties with the highest turnout of registered voters were Sierra (81.9 percent), Nevada (80.8 percent) and Amador (77.6 percent), while turnout was the lowest in Imperial (49.8 percent), Merced (50.9 percent) and Fresno (52.2 percent) counties.

    A new total number of gubernatorial ballots cast means a new threshold to qualify an initiative or referendum for the ballot: For the next four years, proponents will have to gather signatures from at least 504,775 registered voters – five percent of the total votes cast for governor last month – in order to put their measures to a vote. Proponents for a constitutional amendment will need 807,639 signatures, or eight percent of last month’s gubernatorial votes.


    Maybe she should have bought them polo shirts

    Former Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman reported yesterday that she had put another $2.6 million into her campaign on Election Day, Nov. 2, bringing her total personal investment to $144,175,806.11.

    The latest, not-yet-finalized ballot tally (updated last night) shows she got 3,930,138 votes. So, Whitman spent about $36.68 out of her own pocket, not counting other contributions to her campaign, for each general-election vote she ultimately received.

    FYI, if you Google $36.68, you find it’s the price for:

  • a book on wine-cellar design;
  • a pair of Lacoste shoes;
  • a Ralph Lauren polo shirt; or
  • a place in the history books as the woman who spent more out-of-pocket on her own political campaign than anyone else in American history, yet still lost even while her party did exceptionally well all across the rest of the nation.
  • Well, the last one’s not exactly on Google, but you get the picture.


    What’s the story of last night’s CA election?

    The Contra Costa Times’ home page headline this morning is “Red tide hits Blue wall,” and that’s undoubtedly true.

    As Republicans elsewhere in the nation took 11 governor’s offices from Democrats, Jerry Brown overcame Meg Whitman’s $161.5 million blitz to become the nation’s only Democratic gubernatorial pickup. As Republicans elsewhere in the nation picked up six seats in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer turned away the toughest challenge of her career, from Carly Fiorina. Neither race was nearly as close as polls and pundits had projected.

    In fact, neither were most of the down-ticket races; at this hour, with the attorney general’s race still too close to call, it’s possible that Democrats swept the statewide offices. And as a Republican tide undid the Democrats’ electoral victories of the past two cycles to retake the House of Representatives and end Nancy Pelosi’s reign as Speaker, here in the 11th Congressional District, Jerry McNerney – perhaps the state’s most endangered Democratic House member – holds a razor-thin margin over Republican challenger David Harmer as ballots continue to be counted.


    Naturally, your opinion this morning seems to depend on where you’re standing.

    “Feeling pessimistic, but bucking the national trend, California voters decided against a pair of untested Republicans in favor of old-school Democrats on Tuesday,” the New York Times reported.

    From Robert Cruickshank at Calitics.com:

    So. What all does this mean?

    First, that Californians want to be governed by Democrats, and certainly not by wealthy CEOs. The Whitman bust is one of the most laughable and epic political failures we’ve ever seen. She spent $160 million to lose by double digits. Ultimately she and Fiorina could not overcome the basic contradiction of Republican politics: their base hates Latinos, but California’s elections are increasingly decided by Latinos.

    More importantly, Californians rejected right-wing economics. They rejected Whitman and Fiorina’s attack on government and public spending to produce economic recovery.

    From Steve Frank at California News & Views:

    In my opinion, our losses were not due to lack of money (except for our registration effort). Nor was it because of a lack of personnel and smart people.

    Two words for this massive lost [sic] in California, while the GOP was winning in a landslide–or just winning–in 49 other States.


    Would you trust a political party that gave you $140 billion in defiicits? Would you trust a Party that gave you a Governor looking for ways to give amnesty to illegal aliens?

    Would you trust a political party that has a Governor that supports choo-choo trains over economic stability and loves ObamaCare?

    Arnold brought us to 12.4% unemployment and a Great Depression.

    Arnold also bankrupted the California Republican Party–he caused divisions and disputes–kept donors from supporting the GOP.

    With Arnold as the titular head of the California GOP–with a fiscal record that put us into a Depression, with policies like AB 32 that have caused massive unemployment and will devastate the Satte over the next few years, with his refusal to support his own political party–after seven years he has done the impossible.

    He destroyed a political party and he has destroyed a whole State–Our slogan now is “Welcome to the Tarnished State”.

    Any wonder the Republican Party of California lost most everything yesterday?

    So, readers, what do you think? Latino outrage, class warfare, a wildly unpopular Republican incumbent governor, lousy candidates or campaigns, old habits dying hard, or something else entirely — why couldn’t the GOP seal the deal here in California?