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Why Whitman lost

The story of Meg Whitman's campaign was always less about substance and more about how much she was spending.

November 04, 2010|By Arnold Steinberg

Could Whitman's personality have been adapted for politics? Probably. Her political skills did improve as she campaigned. She is a quick study who needed honest, even brutal, advice. She could have been prepped better for the campaign, and for debates. But her political instincts remained off, as evidenced onstage in her joint appearance with Brown at a women's conference. Challenged to pull negative TV ads, Brown seized the moment, saying he'd agree if Whitman would. She demurred. The result? Brown drew applause, Whitman boos.

We are told by Whitman's advisors, who are already trying to distance themselves from the loss, that California is an overwhelmingly Democratic state with an unpopular Republican governor, and that this combination made a Republican win almost impossible. But in an equally blue state, the outspoken Chris Christie won in New Jersey.

Voters saw Meg as very much in the Arnold mold. And, because voters were more likely to blame incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger for California's problems than they were to blame incumbent Jerry Brown, that spelled trouble.

Brown managed to make lemonade out of the lemon of his incumbency, describing himself as someone with an "insider's knowledge" and an "outsider's mind. " In contrast, Whitman came across as having an "outsider's knowledge" and an "insider's mind." And that made all the difference.

Arnold Steinberg is a Republican political strategist and analyst and the author of two graduate texts on politics and media.

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