Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
What’s with Steve Poizner? Is he losing it?
–Perplexed in Palos Verdes

Perplexed,
No, he’s already lost it. The latest episode accusing Meg “Buy it Now” Whitman’s campaign of criminal conduct is the just latest example. How about a few weeks ago when he accused insurers of dealing with Iranian terrorists? Weird stuff.

The word “meltdown” comes to mind.

When you’re down 30 points in the polls, you have to do something dramatic. Granted, early polling is notoriously dicey, but even so, the Poizner campaign is stumbling badly and has been for some time. I’m the perfect person to discuss this issue because I’m a dead Democrat and have no skin in the game, and because the Battle of the Billionaires in the GOP gubernatorial primary appears to have nothing to do with reality. The Whitman campaign, a fatted calf for consultants, is spending tens of millions of dollars on image polishing and Poizner is doing likewise. Both are so far removed from the everyday passions, perils and problems of Californians, that it is hard to believe that voters take either one seriously.
But I cite the Poizner episode to talk about electoral politics.

I know it’s hard to run for governor or any high office  – we can talk about how Ronnie whacked me in 1970 or how I lost the L.A. mayor’s race in 1973 – but none of us were afraid to directly face voters or engage the working press. Compare that to this year’s GOP primary.

And when the cherished dream that once seemed attainable turns into a long-shot – well, you have to suck it up. The irony here is that Poizner’s complaint appears to be based on a memo written by Whitman consultant Mike Murphy, a goofy, wise-cracking strategist who blew Schwarzenegger’s reform campaign a few years ago but, amazingly, seems to be thriving. The irony is that Murphy, believe it or not, actually offered good advice this time: Get behind Poizner for a run down at the road at Feinstein.

But I’ve learned a few things in politics, and here are some of them.

Learn how to count. Kick your enemies every chance you get, especially when they’re down. Never forget a slight. Stick with your friends, reward them, and place your best friend in charge of your campaign. Never hire a political consultant, but if you have to, never hire a losing political consultant a second time. Never talk to a reporter on the record unless it’s absolutely necessary. Never read editorials. If you have to philander, make sure she’s smart. Never go to public information officers for public information – go to their bosses. Never investigate your friends. Develop and nurture relationships with lobbyists, who  are far and away the smartest people in the Capitol – 10 times smarter than reporters, five times smarter than the electeds and twice as smart as the staffs. Never eat at Brannon’s.

And, above all, never vote for a Republican unless it’s Pete McCloskey.


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