Polls show Phil Angelides running behind Arnold Schwarzenegger. In addition
to the usual advantages of incumbency, Schwarzenegger still has charisma and
star power on his side. So what can Angelides do? Here are three alternative
The first is “divide and conquer.” Francine Busby tried it with radio ads
urging conservatives to consider a right-wing independent candidate. While
this tactic peeled a few points away from Brian Bilbray, it wasn’t quite
enough to change the outcome. But “divide and conquer” could work for
Angelides if he kicks it up a notch.
The key is raising support for Edward Noonan, the candidate of the American
Independent Party. Angelides should run this message on conservative talk
“Governor Schwarzenegger won his party’s nomination on 6-6-06. He’ll poison
your water, send your children to salt mines, ogle your daughters and give
all the winning lottery numbers to illegal immigrants. As for me, I’ll just
raise your taxes and take away your guns. If you’re looking for a candidate
who won’t do any of these things, I suppose you could vote for Ed Noonan.”
Of course, there’s one catch. If the message spreads beyond the right wing,
Noonan might win.
OK, let’s move on to the second strategy, which consists of hitting the
enemy where he least expects it. Schwarzenegger assumes that nobody could
match him on manliness and glitz. Here is where Angelides could surprise
him. Although it’s too late for a crash program of weightlifting, there’s a
shortcut: implants. Thanks to the miracle of silicone, Angelides could
quickly gain pecs and biceps worthy of Mr. Olympia.
Just imagine a debate where he rips off his shirt and challenges
Schwarzenegger to do the same. Rumor has it that the governor has eaten too
many schnitzengruben lately, so the contrast would be devastating.
As for glitz, remember what happened in 2003 when the papers reported
Schwarzenegger’s naughty behavior on movie sets? His numbers shot up.
Accordingly, the Angelides campaign should plant rumors in the tabloids that
he has been carrying on with Angelina Jolie, leaving Brad Pitt in tears.
There is a perfect word for this love triangle: BRANGELIDES!
As with the first strategy, this approach has its risks. Plastic surgery can
backfire. (Just think of Michael Jackson’s nose or Nancy Pelosi’s eyes.) If
the implants shift downward, Angelides could end up with very large ankles.
And the campaign must take care to get Pitt and Jolie to go along with the
Brangelides rumor. It might lose some credibility if it causes them to burst
If the second strategy seems uncomfortable, Angelides could tack in the
opposite direction. The third strategy is, to borrow a phrase from Chris
Matthews, “hang a lantern on your problem.” That is, if you have a liability
that everybody knows about anyway, you might as well face up to it publicly.
Here is what Angelides could say in a statewide broadcast: “California needs
a government that looks like its people. Who meets this standard? On the one
hand, you have Gov. Schwarzenegger, who’s been the world’s greatest
bodybuilder. On the other hand, you have me–a pencil-necked geek. So which
one of us resembles the real California? Be honest. No fibbing. There are a
lot more of me than there are of him. If you’re not sure, think about the
last time you stood in line at the supermarket.
“I stand in the proud tradition of Culbert Olson and Goodwin Knight. You
probably don’t remember these guys, which is my point. They really did serve
as governor, and you can Google their names if you don’t believe me. But
they were totally forgettable. And let’s face it, most of us Californians
are totally forgettable, too.
“So here is what I offer: a governor who is just as ordinary as you are,
give or take a few million dollars. And I pledge a government that you can