Meg Whitman

Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., along with his daughter, Alex, and his wife, Susan, speaks at a primary night watch event at the Valley Forge Military Academy & College in Wayne, Pa., Tuesday, 18 May 2010. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Arlen Specter, longtime 6-term Republican who switched to the Democratic Party is out. He lost his bid for re-election in yesterday’s primary. The emerging pattern is that the people aren’t interested in politics as usual and that incumbency may be a heavy liability in the November midterms.

Usually, incumbency offers advantages and even in the bloodletting midterm elections of 1994 and 2006, incumbents were re-elected at a relatively high rate—just not as high as usual. My thinking is that some incumbents will have a harder time than others with the key driver being how ties they are to the establishment.

Sestak was behind the 8-ball in early polls, but I agree with the analysis that ideology didn’t drive the turnaround. It was a desire for a fresh face. Here’s the ad {“The Switch”} by Joe Sestak that started Arlen Specter’s decline in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary::

The ad linked Specter to the establishment.

It will be interesting how the races in California play out. There are two Republican ex-Silicon Valley CEO political outsiders vying for the statehouse and Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat. Millionaire Carly Fiorina running for Governor and billionaire Meg Whitman setting her sights on the U.S. Senate, if they get through the primaries, are hoping to give marquee-name Democrats {Boxer and Jerry Brown, respectively} a run for their money. I don’t think their messages will get much traction in California this year, but never underestimate the power of a substantial warchest. I’m sure Jerry Brown’s sister, Kathleen, still remembers what happens when you run out of money in a campaign, as she did in 1994.

Song:: Green Day-‘American Idiot’

Twitterversion:: [blog] Specter loses Senate bid—PA primary. Will incumbents face a “throw the bums out” mandate this fall? #ThickCulture  @Prof_K

Linda Ronstadt & Jerry Brown Newsweek cover, April 1979

Meg Whitman may have more more money than good sense, despite hiring a cadre of political consultants, but then again she’s in a tough bind. She was challenged to a three-way bipartisan gubernatorial debate before the California primaries by Democrat Jerry Brown. The debate would include Brown, Meg Whitman and her fellow Republican challenger and Steve Poizner. Her response went from maybe to no, no meaning not until Jerry has a debate with his longshot Democratic challenger. All the while, Jerry has received a ton of press with his challenge.

Whitman {a billionaire} and Poizner {a multi-millionaire} have plenty of cash to spend and they’re going to burn through it trying to get the Republican nomination. Brown’s warchest is light, but he hasn’t been spending. Meg was avoiding debating Steve, but finally succumbed last month. Poizner’s approach has been to paint Whitman as not conservative enough, while Whitman tries to allow for more shades of grey on issues. In the long run, Whitman’s strategy is what’s needed to win the blue state of California, as Republican numbers favour Democrats and moderates need to be courted to win. A debate with both Poizner and Brown would be very risky for Whitman. From what I’ve seen, she’s not quick on her feet and talks like a corporate executive who spends 15 minutes answering a question with, “it depends.” A three-way debate would mean attacks from her right and her left. She would have to come across as a strong moderate that would enough appeal to more conservative Republicans and I’m not convinced she has the platform or the rhetorical chops to pull that off.

Love him or hate him, Jerry Brown is an interesting guy. When I was a kid, I remember him running for Governor in 1978, handily defeating his Republican challenger Evelle Younger. I also remember his nickname, Governor Moonbeam. He was dating Linda Rondstadt and I recall this corny political joke, “Linda Ronstadt started dating Jerry Brown when she realized she wasn’t getting any Younger.” Anyway.

Jerry made a bid for the presidency in 1976, 1980, and 1992. He was a credible threat to Bill Clinton in the primaries with grassroots campaigning and a toll-free contribution line. He also isn’t afraid to get rough. Here he is going after Clinton by making Whitewater allegations::

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I think he would give Poizner and Whitman a run for their money and having been in politics in the state since forever, he knows the beat.

Twitterversion:: Jerry Brown throws down gauntlet debate proposal vs. the millionaire & the billionaire. Shrewd PR move. #ThickCulture @Prof_K

Song:: Linda Ronstadt-‘Blue Bayou’

Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and Republican candidate for California Governor

The Huffington Post has an article on Democratic Candidate for California Governor, Jerry Brown. It mentions that while Jerry, now uncontested in the primaries, has spent next to nothing, Meg in on a media frenzy.

A group of Democrats have started taking potshots at her, using social media. Leveltheplayingfield2010 is using a an anti-Whitman wiki, wikimeg, and creating videos for YouTube::

Her allegiance to Mitt Romney and comments she made about Sarah Palin are weakening her cause among the tea party crowd.

I find it interesting that many user comments paint Meg Whitman as a RINO who is soft on immigration.

It’s hard to gauge what will go viral and her detractors are putting content out there to seed that possibility. Nevertheless, Whitman has a huge personal warchest to draw from, so she has the ability to hammer Brown with traditional media buys. Her biggest weakness. She’s an odd candidate for California. My take is she’s not moderate enough for the middle and not conservative enough for the right. Being an ex-CEO, like Carly Fiorina who is running for US Senate, might be a drawback in this political climate, particularly when it’s been reported that financial services and the legal industries have been key contributors to her campaign, this far.

Twitterversion:: Ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman, candidate for CA governor is being attacked in social media, but will it matter? #ThickCulture @Prof_K

Song:: Steely Dan-‘More of the Same’