Saturday, June 10, 2006

Say it Here, hear it There

Leading up to Tuesday's primary, I made a comment about the dynamic in the Democratic Gubernatorial race. In it, I warned that the Democrats would be wise to learn the Lesson of 1998:

I wonder though if either of these two gentlemen might not be wise come November to take home the lesson of the 1998 Gubernatorial campaign. That year Republican Dan Lungren spent months campaigning on one premise alone: Gray Davis was a bad choice for Governor.

While I agreed with that premise, it was obvious to me why Dan lost in the general election that year by a wide margin. People need a reason to vote for you. It wasn't enough that Lungren wasn't Gray Davis and it won't be enough that Steve Westly isn't Phil Angelides or that Angelides is no Steve Westly.

When it comes time for one or the other to square off against the Governator, people will need a reason to vote for them aside from whatever it is they might not like about Arnold.

It's not a particularly profound truth but a very obvious and important one. Dan Weintraub, political columnist extroidinaire for the Sacramento Bee gave a similar warning just 48 hours into the new campaign:

But if he is to win in the fall, Angelides will have to be more than the "anti-Arnold." He will have to offer a positive vision for California's future.

He is capable of doing so. He did it in stump speeches and in interviews during the primary campaign. He can weave together economics, demography, education and the environment into an inspiring narrative about his own life and his view of the world.

He and his team, for some reason, never wanted to put that version of Angelides front and center in his campaign for the nomination. Instead, they introduced voters to a snarling, mean-spirited party hack who managed to wrestle his less experienced opponent to the ground, roll around for several weeks and finally pin him, leaving both candidates exhausted.

Such is common, if not exactly preferred, in primary battles but general elections need to be run differently. Meanwhile, Arnold is already hitting the trail with a bus tour of the state: Now Schwarzenegger is off and running for re-election, touring the north state by bus, holding events his staff says will be unstaged and open to all comers. And his story -- he cut taxes, brought the state back from the brink of bankruptcy and now is laying the groundwork to rebuild California's infrastructure for the 21st century -- is compelling.

Angelides will complain about education budgets, but Schwarzenegger's current proposal would complete an $8 billion, 17 percent increase in school spending over two years. The Democrat will hit him on the environment, but the governor is an enthusiastic supporter of alternative energy and backs a plan to put California in the lead among states fighting global warming.

Angelides can try to attack Schwarzenegger as a tool of the special interests, but the treasurer is a favorite of the state's most powerful interest group -- the public employee labor unions -- and in the primary he was the beneficiary of an unprecedented $8 million campaign by Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos and his family.

In the end, this will be a campaign offering two distinct choices.

Meanwhile, I haven't seen Phil anywhere except in a pre-fab photo-op with his former adversary, Steve Westly...the guy he'd just finished sliming.

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