Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
When is Jerry Brown going to make his move?
–Anxious in Anaheim

In about three weeks. He’ll do a statewide tour, kicking it off in Los Angeles just like the old days, and may even stop in San Jose during the Republicans’ spring convention. Hoo-yah!

So from March through November, it’ll be a political reporters’ paradise in California.

Lots of dough, lots of hits, an occasional issue, wonderful TV spots, international media coverage (most of it bad, except for the Economist), national media coverage (all of it bad, except for Hedrick Hertzberg or George Packer), and a titanic battle of labor vs. business. This is all against a back drop of a state in fiscal meltdown, a national tsunami forming against Democrats and lapping at California’s shores, plus ballot initiatives both squalid and interesting. And we haven’t even mentioned the lieutenant governor’s race, offshore oil drilling or legislative battles.

This is all high entertainment, of course, and it’s what keeps people engaged. It’s the passing parade. It’s the victory of the carnival. Remember: Watch what politicians say, not what they do, and always bear in mind that appearance is everything, substance nothing. Following these rules is what made California the state that it is – and the voters, too.

I’ve always liked a good, tight political campaign, and while my races were bad and loose, I speak with authority.

And that brings us back to Jerry Brown.

His will be the strangest campaign in the state’s history. His own campaign will raise and spend perhaps $1 of every $10 that is spent on his behalf. The rest will come through independent expenditure committees, largely from organized labor, the public employee unions and, marginally, Hollywood. That’s assuming that organized labor is going to pony up – something of which I am becoming increasingly suspicious. I know money and I know labor. So where’s the money? You got the media blitz, now where’s the dough?

Barring an act of God, Brown will square off against Meg Whitman in November, and the debates this October between the two will be a joy to behold. The tart-tongued old pro – that’s Brown – against the billionaire political ingénue – that’s Whitman – after a campaign that likely will top $100 million. Forget the World Series; the real slugfest will be on a stage somewhere in California. Who will hit a home run?

Brown is telling people privately at fundraisers that he needs a lot of money to fight Whitman. He’s right. He’s been in front of microphones and cameras for more than 40 years, and he’s said all manner of things that can be cut, edited, twisted and shaped into dreadful ammunition. Couple those with those grainy, black-and-white images of the bald pate, laser-beam eyes and bushy eyebrows, and you’ve got a helluva package. “I’ve said all kinds of stuff. She’s going to sling a lot of s—t at me, and I need the money to sling it right back,” Brown told one recent fundraiser. “I need your money.” These are direct quotes, by the way.

Whenever I demanded campaign money, I never got anywhere, but Jerry seems to have struck gold. They’re pledging, and that’s almost as good as having money.
So we’ll see if they deliver.

But whether they do or not, people will be writing about the 2010 governor’s race for  decades.
Like I said: Hoo-yah!


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