Posts Tagged ‘2010 Elections’

Jerry Brown Swims Against the Republican Tide

Friday, October 29th, 2010

A number of new polls out in the past week and a half show that California voters may be bucking the national trend by voting Democratic at the top of the ticket.

A raft of new polling has been released in the past two weeks, and almost all polling has shown significant bounces for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer. Brown is up by margins ranging from 7-10 and Boxer leads Fiorina by margins from 3-7. Brown is at or over 50% in most polls, while Boxer is close to that mark.

Obviously there are different dynamics at play in the two races, but one theme is constant: Republicans in California almost always have to tack too far to the right in order to win in an increasingly smaller and more conservative Republican party and then can’t win in general elections. This dynamic is exacerbated by racial divisions between a Republican party electorate which insists on a hard line when it comes to illegal immigration and a general election electorate in which Latinos play the role of an increasingly important swing demographic.

Looking specifically at Governors race, Whitman’s campaign has had a rough few weeks. When it’s all over, I think we’ll look back and see the breaking of the scandal with eMeg’s maid as a turning point.  The contrast between her defending the “tough as nails” positions on illegal immigration she had to take in order to win the nomination and the fact that she employed an illegal immigrant was striking. The fact that she had to defend that contradiction in a debate the next week was icing on the cake and her ham handed attempts to do so were like a cherry on top.    

The nature of California campaigns is that they are lean heavily on the strength of ad campaigns, so it’s not surprising the the final story lines of the campaign can be tracked by trends in political ads. Whitman blanketed the airwaves for almost a year straight, spending almost $150 million of her own money on the race. One Brown supporter joked that Whitman was on his TV every time he turned it on and that one time his TV actually turned itself on and Whitman was on it. After a year straight of constant Whitman commercials, people tended to just tune out every time her face came on the screen. 

Whitman’s diminishing returns from the saturation campaign were exacerbated by the fact that Jerry Brown was an unlikely person to tag with the “just another career Democratic politician in hock to the unions” label. California’s are familiar with Brown and he is known as an eccentric and an iconoclast, not just another career politician. Brown wasn’t able to match Whitman on the air until Labor Day and the fact that they were neck and neck at that point didn’t bode well for eMeg.

Brown’s ads down the stretch have also been particularly effective at using Whitman’s words against her. One shows Whitman offering the exact same rationale for her campaign that unpopular Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave for his. The most recent ad has been called Brown’s coup de gras by Chris Matthews, following Meg Whitman’s oft repeated statement that when she and her husband moved to California thirty years ago, anything was possible, with a reminder that the Governor at that time was…none other than Jerry Brown.

In the meantime, Whitman belatedly realized that her image was increasingly frosty and decided that the last two weeks of the campaign would be a good time to introduce herself to the California electorate. Except that the California electorate already knew her. She’s the lady who’se been on their TV every hour of every day for the past year…and the lady who campaigned as tough on immigration…but harbored an illegal immigrant in her own house.   

This weekend, Whitman may have suffered the ultimate indignity of the campaign when the woman running to become the first woman Governor of California was booed at the Women’s Forum after she refused Matt Lauer’s suggestion to halt all negative ads for the last week of the campaign. As Calbuzz pointed out, with a 10 point lead and one week to go, Jerry Brown was able to take the high road, volunteering to take his negative ads off the TV if Whitman would do the same.

I don’t want to jinx anything, cause anything could happen, but as another great Californian used to say, the eggs are coolin, the jello’s jigglin and the butter’s gettin hard.

It may be time to put this one in the refrigerator.

Milazz 2010 Senate Primer

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

With nine days to go, it looks like the Republicans are poised to take the House. The math in the Senate looks like more of a long shot.

The current Senate makeup is 59-41, counting Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders, so Republicans would have to net 10 seats to get to 51, since a 50-50 tie would be broken by Joe Biden.  Below I look at the races where Republicans have to prevail in order to take control.

Probable Republican Pickups

Arkansas, North Dakota and Indiana have long been considered Republican pickups, with the Republican candidates leading in opinion polls for months. These races are basically over at this point and can safely be considered Republican pickups.

Lean Republican


In one of the more puzzling results of the year, Russ Feingold has trailed badly behind plastics manufacturer (I can’t help but think of The Graduate) and Tea Party candidate, Ron Johnson. A few months ago, I characterized this as a Democratic Firewall seat, based on Feingold’s history of bucking party and common wisdom as well as Wisconsin’s traditional voting patterns.  Wisconsin has been true blue for a while now and has a history of electing fiery populist Democrats (dating back to ”Fightin” Bob LaFolette during the Progressive Era). In recent polling Feingold has trailed by up to 8 points, with Johnson polling over 50% in some polls. This is very bad news for Feingold at this late hour, and the race would have qualified as a Probable Republican Pickup just a week ago. However, just last week week two polls came out showing Feingold closing the gap, so I err on the side of caution and include this as a Lean Republican seat.


In another race where biography would seem to indicate a different result, former Congressman and Admiral Joe Sestak has consistently trailed former Congressman and free market libertarian derivatives trader Pat Toomey for almost the entire year. But in what seems to be a national trend of poll tightening in Senate Races,  Sestak has pulled even with Toomey or is showing a small lead. Having pulled even, Sestak hopes the Pennsylvania Democratic machine can carry him over the finish line. 


Tea Party favorite Ken Buck has generally led appointed Senator Michael Bennett by 2-5 points since the primaries. This race has tightened in recent weeks as Bennett has surged slightly and Ken Buck has stepped on his message a few times. A new Denver Post poll out today has the race a dead heat, but Buck should still be considered a slight favorite here.



The nastiest, most high profile race in the country has to be in Nevada, where the Least Charismatic Man in America continues to be locked in a tight race against the Crazy Cat Lady from your Old Neighborhood. The fact that Harry Reid hasn’t been able to put the Tea Party Fringe Candidate Sharron Angle out of her misery is a testament to how much Nevadans hate their sitting senator. This is probably the most polled race in the country and it seems like they alternate leads in every other poll. Angle’s up by a couple of points now, but all indications are that this race will go down to the wire.

In Illinois, the voters face another Faustian bargain as Mark Kirk, a former Republican Congressman who is most famous for lying about his military record during the Gulf War takes on Alexi Giannoulias, who is most famous for his family’s shady savings and loan which went belly up early this year. On Meet the Press, Kirk defended his exaggerations about his military experience while Giannoulias put himself in the running for the most cringeworthy political statements in history when he basically admitted that he knew he was loaning money to mobsters when he worked at his father’s bank 4 years ago. This race is another that is too close to call, with Kirk mostly maintaining a one to two point lead over Giannoulias for the past few months, but Giannoulias showing some signs of life in the past few weeks. Another race where turnout will be key.

West Virginia

The addition of West Virginia as a possible Republican pickup has kept the Republicans in the game. Here, popular governor Mike Manchin is taking on another perennial Republican loser, John Raese, in a Special Election for the seat of held by the late Robert Byrd. In another example of how ignorance sells in this country, Raese has made a point of pointing out that he can’t pronounce non Anglo names, recently calling Energy Secretary  Dr. Steven Chu, Dr. Chow Mein (Stay classy John Raese!).

 This seat was initially assumed a safe Democratic seat because of the popularity of Manchin, but in recent weeks, Raese surged into a lead over Manchin with a clever campaign which acknowledges Manchin’s popularity as Governor, but agues that he would become a rubber stamp for Obama and Pelosi if he were to go to Washington.  The polling in this race has been all over the map, with polls within days of each other exibiting violent swings.

Democratic Firewall Seats

If the Republicans were to sweep all of the above races, they would still need to take one more seat to get to 51. The two most obvious seats are the generally reliable blue states of Washington and California, where two Democratic women from the 1992 “Year of the Woman” class are facing tough challenges.


In Washington, Senator Patti Murray faces Dino Rossi, another perennial Republican challenger who narrowly lost a race for Governor in 2004 and then lost by a more substantial margin in 2008. This race has bounced around a bit, but Murray has held a small lead for the past few weeks. At this point, Nate Silver ranks this race as an 85% chance of a Murray win.


Liberal stalwart Barbara Boxer, another Year of the Woman Alumnus, has yet to put away former Hewlet Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, but she has led her in the polls by margins from 1% to 8% since early September. Although Boxer’s inability to poll about 50% has been cited as a bad sign for her, a Republican pickup here, while possible, seems unlikely.

Lean Republican Hold

While Democrats are on defense in almost all of the swing seats, there is still faint hope that they could take one Republican seat. Democratic hopes are pinned on Kentucky, where son of the Tea Party icon Ron Paul, Rand Paul, is taking on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. Even in reliably red Kentucky, Paul has struggled due to the original intent constitutionalism and the radical free market ideology that he stands for. While this race has been closer than expected, Paul now leads by close to 5% and Conway’s attacks on Paul’s college associations and pranks look increasingly desperate. It looks like the Democrats will have to rely on defense to get them through this one.

Bottom line for the Republicans? They need to lock up the three seats they are favored in (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado), run the table in the tossup elections of Nevada, Illinois and West Virginia, and take either California or Washington while holding on to their lead in Kentucky.

Stay frosty folks. The next week and a half will be interesting.

Politico: Every Big Senate Race Just Got Closer

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

I hope to have something out on the Senate races by Sunday night. In the meantime, here’s Politico from earlier this week on the tightening Senate races.

Harry Reid: Obama is Like the Chilean Miners

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I know I’m only supposed to say good things about the guy I want to win, but this is too good to pass up.

Hell of a choice for those Nevadans.

My Day in Jerry Brown’s Entourage

Monday, October 18th, 2010

This profile on Jerry Brown brought back memories of the day that I spent with the former Governor in the mid 90′s.

I met Governor Brown through his longtime friend and advisor Jacques Barzaghi, a friend of my uncle’s. It was the summer of 1995, I had just graduated from college and was visiting my aunt and uncle in New York. They were invited to Barzaghi’s wedding (I believe that this was number 5 out of 7) and they invited me to tag along to the party. At the time, there was talk that Brown was going to run for office again and I spoke to Jacques that night and told him that I would be interested in meeting Jerry Brown and seeing if I could help them in any way.

A few months later, I was back in the Bay Area and setup a time to meet with Barzaghi and Brown. Brown had purchased a large building in the Jack London Square neighborhood, a formerly vibrant area of town which had fallen on hard times. In the new building, they had built a communal living space and started a non-profit organization called We the People, whose mission is listed as bringing “together philosophers, artists and activists to discuss and plan ways to work change.”

I dressed nicely and had a copy of my resume in my hand when I walked in the door. Jacques introduced me to the Governor, who was busy with some other things at the time and Jacques and I stepped out onto the patio to talk. I told him that I was interested in politics, had some experience with it, and wanted to help them out if they were considering a run. Barzaghi was dismissive of the idea. You don’t make change by winning elections, he said. He was talking about the market that they had plans to build and said, in his thick French accent, that change is made by having a market “where people can go and not experience racism,” and that this social change of individuals would create real political change. By this time, Brown had joined us on the patio and he chimed in: “it’s a Buddhist idea.”

We talked for a little while longer and then they put me to work stuffing envelopes. They mentioned that Brown needed to go to Berkely to broadcast his We the People radio show on KPFA and I asked if I could come along. They indicated that that would be fine, but about an hour later I heard them getting ready to leave and reminded them that I had planned to go along with them.

“Oh sure,” said the Governor, “let’s go.”

I walked outside, expecting to be with an entourage but it was just Jerry and me. We headed to his car. I’m not good on cars, but this was an old American beater. Like a Lincoln Continental or a Pontiac.

Just as I was about to get into the passenger’s seat, Brown asked: “Do you drive?

“Yes,” I answered.

“Good. You drive, I’ll read,” said the Governor and threw me the keys to his car.

Brown was scheduled to interview bell hooks, an English professor and teacher at USC’s Ethnic Studies Department who has written over 30 books (mostly focused on race and gender), and he was clearly behind on his research. He buried his head in her most recent book and gave me directions from the passenger seat while he highlighted passages. I had no idea where I was going, and every once in a while the Governor would look up: “Turn Right… Get in the left lane… Get on the freeway to the left.” I was wired as I drove the 880 to the 80. This was not what I had expected to be doing when I woke up this morning, but it sure as hell was fun.

We were running late, so the Governor had me drop him off at the radio station and said to park the car in the supermarket parking lot. When I got there, the security guard at the market gave me a hard time about parking in the lot.

“Um, I’m with Jerry Brown” I told him, but he was not impressed.

“I don’t care who you’re with, you can’t park here” he said.

“I’ll be right back,” I yelled at him as I walked across the street to KPFA.

Jerry asked if I parked the car and I told him about the security guard.

“Did you tell him who you’re with?” he asked.

I headed back to the parking lot and found some street parking for the Governors car before I headed back to KPFA. In the station, the Governor was already on the air, so I was waiting in the foyer of the radio station and this excitable young guy started up a conversation with me. He was going on about Jerry Brown and asked if I knew about him.

“Sure,” I said. “I came here with him.”

“You’re in Jerry Brown’s Entourage?” he said incredulously.

Yeah, I laughed to myself. Today I am Jerry Brown’s entourage.

That was fifteen years ago. By the time Brown was running for Mayor of Oakland in 1998 I had a corporate job in the City and missed out on the campaign. After the election, he served as mayor for 8 years. In 2004, Jacques was fired by Jerry Brown after police responded to a call about a domestic dispute at his home in Oakland. This episode followed a suspension for sexual harassment in 2001 and seems to have been the last straw for Brown.  Brown went on to become California’s Attorney General,  a post he’s held for the past four years.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jerry Brown may be the the most complicated politician in the world. He combines a philosopher’s mind with a lifetime of experience getting things done in politics. Throgout his life he has defied easy characterization. While he has been attacked as a left wing liberal on social issues, he had a very fiscally conservative record as governor. He is famous for saying that California had entered an “era of limits” when he was governor and was called “more of a fiscal conservative than Ronald Reagan” by a prominent conservative commentator. In 1978 when he ran for re-election he even carried Republican Orange County. As mayor of Oakland, he presided over a very sucessful urban revitalization program that pitted him against many entrenched political interests and brought new investment into the city of Oakland. As California Attorney General he claims to have defended the death penalty “over 100 times” even though he is personally opposed to it.

It’s difficult to say exactly where Jerry Brown would take the state if he were elected for his third term as Governor. Part of the problem with a record as varied as Brown’s is that it makes him difficult to pin down, and campaigns full of political posturing don’t necessarily help to clarify these issues. But it’s clear that California’s political process is fatally flawed and desperately needs new ideas. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but Jerry Brown just might bring to the table the perfect mix of new ideas and the political experience to actually enact those ideas for California.

Splice Today: Jerry Brown, The Most Complicated Politician Alive

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Great piece from on Jerry Brown’s unlikely political career.

Corporate Money Deluge Continues in California

Monday, October 18th, 2010

The rumored next buy from the Chamber of Commerce looks like it will bring the total spent against Barbara Boxer to $4.5 million.

Thanks activist judges!

Bobblehead Meg

Saturday, October 16th, 2010


More on Reid-Angle Debate

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Debate Analysis from Chris Matthews, Jon Ralston and Chuck Todd on Hardball.

Same opinion from both Todd and Ralston: not so much that Sharron Angle did a good job, just that Harry Reid was his usual boring self, refusing to defend himself aggressively or to make the (easy) case that Angle is way out of the mainstream.


Least Charismatic Man in World vs. Crazy Cat Lady

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Only Harry Reid could be “on defense” in his only debate against the Craziest Tea Bagger of the Bunch.

Here’s Politico with Nevada debate coverage and Jon Ralston on how Sharron Angle managed to best Harry Reid last night.

Apparently Harry Reid’s debate performance was about as exciting as watching him in the Senate for the past two years has been.