Experts Expound

Experts Expound

The latest Field Poll puts Steve Westly up by 11 points over Phil Angelides
in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, which surprised some political
observers. Has Angelides’ campaign misfired in a fundamental way, or is this
simply a question of a deep-pockets candidate, Westly, buying up a lot of TV
time? Can Angelides turn it around?

It’s a three-legged stool of Westly’s feel-good ads, Angelides’ stumbles and
an electorate that really isn’t paying attention yet. That 11-point lead is
softer than a prevent defense and 47 days is plenty of time for Angelides to
bounce back.

It’s both. Westly’s money has given him a big advantage, but Angelides has
blown it. Even for hardcore Democrats, his “I hate Arnold” message isn’t
enough. As Howard Dean will tell you, anger is a good start but you need
more than that.

In low-turnout elections (which is probable in June and possible in
November) you cannot discount the power of the still-potent minority of
xenophobic whites. They exist in both the Democratic and Republican parties
and they will choose the least ‘ethnic’ candidate. Angelides beware.

Angelides has allowed Westly to grab momentum, probably because the
treasurer is too short of cash to match his rival nickel-for-nickel. But
that momentum may be a mirage, given the large number of still-undecided
Democratic voters, and Angelides still has plenty of time to turn these
numbers around. In 1998, Gray Davis wasn’t even a dust speck on the radar
screen until very late in the game, yet he won. I suspect Angelides and his
labor allies have something special in store to help burnish Mr. Westly’s
image and poke a Mack-truck sized hole in the controller’s big Mo.

(There is) some discussion of under-sampling of Dems in the field poll. I
don’t understand what Mulholland is talking about, but they are really
pissed about it. Seems to me that only Dems and indies would be polled.
Having said that, it is too early to call anything. The big ad buy helped to
define Westly to the voters, clearly. Of course Angelides can turn it
around. Lot’s can happen in six weeks. You know that.

Phil never got going internally. Spent too long looking for staff and never
getting a groove on. More importantly, he let the spin about how Westly is
the one who can beat Arnold sit out there without knocking it down. The
Kings are more likely to beat the Spurs in four games than Westly beating
the governor, but Phil left the idea hanging out there long enough to allow
it to become truth.

Westly’s ads obviously have a lot to do with the latest polls. But Phil’s
biggest problem is that he’s violated one of the most basic laws of
campaigns: You can’t always be against everything. You have to be for
something. Whatever attempts he’s made to try and put forward something
positive have failed to penetrate, he constantly frames it against a
negative attack on the governor or Westly, and refuses to put specifics on
what his vision actually is. Being the attack dog only gets you so far; once
in a while you actually have to tell the public specifically what you stand
for, and Phil’s failed miserably so far.

The only way Phil turns it around is (with) the unions. If they get behind
him seriously and turn out the vote, he can pull this out. He has their
endorsements, does he have their hearts?

The issue is taxes. Clearly even Democratic primary voters think they pay
enough in taxes (perhaps the fact that the poll was held around the
tax-filing deadline had an impact

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