Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Keep Your Friends Close--But First, Make Sure They're Friends

Just a mere few weeks after California Senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina was widely criticized and mocked from both ends of the political spectrum for her "Demon Sheep" attack on fellow Republican Tom Campbell, she's done it again. This time she dragged new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown into her campaign, as a "friend." Someone forgot to tell Scott Brown.

Fiorina, a newcomer to California politics, is a Republican primary candidate in a three-person race to unseat Democrat Barbara Boxer in the general election. The race is tight, and as I've reported before, all three Republicans are now within the margin of error for beating Boxer. The other two candidates (Tom Campbell and Chuck DeVore) are to the right of Fiorina, and both have prior political credentials in California. Fiorina has a background as an executive at AT&T, Lucent, and most notably at Hewlett-Packard corporation from which she was forced to resign by the Hewlett-Packard Board of Directors. Her Republican political credentials are very thin, and her most notable entry into politics was her position as top economic adviser to "maverick" Presidential candidate, John McCain. 'Nuff said.

Fiorina's most recent campaign web ad (Demon Sheep Redux?) shows a smiling Scott Brown with the legend "Thank You Massachusetts. Now on to California. Join the Path to Victory." One would be tempted to think that Carly has hooked a big fish to help her with her campaign in California. It would certainly be fair to infer that she at least suggested an endorsement from Brown, a hugely popular candidate who came from an obscure spot in the Massachusetts Senate to become the replacement for Senator-for-Life, Democrat Ted Kennedy. There has been much talk (grossly premature, I might add) of picking Brown as the Republican candidate for President in 2012. Endorsements don't get much better than that.

Fiorina's campaign has said that the ad merely indicates that she wants to duplicate Brown's feat in California. No endorsement implied. Yeah, and if you believe that, I've got this big orange bridge I'll sell you cheap. A spokesman for DeVore said "It's crafted with this wink wink, nudge nudge that's meant to imply something that it doesn't explicitly say. You don't appropriate the symbol of Scott Brown and claim it as your own without validating him as a source." Campbell's media consultant tweeted "I don't know if she's claiming an endorsement but that's up there in the Scott Brown exploitation sweepstakes."

Unlike Fiorina, DeVore's people went directly to Scott Brown's handlers and openly asked for Brown's support. They were not entirely rebuffed, but a Brown staffer replied with "Everybody and their mother is asking for an endorsement and we don't want to get involved in a Republican primary." Clearly, the Brown camp was not rejecting the idea of endorsing the Republican primary winner down the road, but is wisely staying out of the politics of other states during primary season. Campbell, on the other hand, seemed to sense the inappropriateness (and poor timing) of even asking for an endorsement from Brown. Short of opposing a KKK or 9-11 Troofer candidate, it is simply unwise for a Republican from one state to interfere in the internal politics of the primaries of another state. Wise politicians recognize that (although pace DeVore, there's no harm in asking).

Political science professor Larry Gerston summed it up by saying: "It's not unusual for people running for office to make exaggerated claims. As to accuracy, well, accuracy sometimes takes a back seat to emotional appeal in politics." Although I see the professor's point, that's an excuse more than an explanation. Fiorina at best has shown bad judgment, for the second time in a rather limited time-frame. She could at least have run it past Brown's people, and perhaps gotten his approval for a use of his image in a far less-obvious ploy to suggest endorsement. All three candidates are perfectly justified in using the Massachusetts Miracle as a guideline for a Republican victory in Democratic California. But that doesn't mean they should drag Brown into a race that he has not chosen to participate in.

Showing the images of Brown, new Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, new Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, along with an image of herself would have suggested a "trend." Showing Brown alone followed by the statement "Thank you Massachusetts. Now on to California. Join the Path to Victory," clearly suggests in the strongest way possible that Brown has endorsed Fiorina. Fiorina needs to learn the old adage that just because you can do something, it doesn't necessarily follow that you should. Her twin misjudgments at least indicate that she is too reliant on subordinates. If she can't pick a good ad agency or good public spokespeople, what kind of aides is she going to pick if she actually wins the nomination and defeats Boxer in the general election?

18 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

She's had a truly bad campaign team hasn't she? Neither of these ads should ever have seen the light of day -- the Demon Sheep ad in particular. Wow was that a bad idea.

Writer X said...

This does not bode well for Fiorina's judgment, that's for sure!

Speaking of judgment, McCain is now saying, predictably, that he was "misled about the bank bailout." How convenient. As one of his former economic advisors, I wonder if that includes Fiorina.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I heard that. It seems that McCain is disvowing his entire past these days!

Writer X said...

Andrew, I think you're right! Any day he'll probably emerge with a new name and claim that he's being treated for some little known psychosis. I predict a visit to OPRAH.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: I think much of it has to do with her nearly-total lack of experience in the political arena. She's marketing herself like she'd market a new computer tower at H-P, and we know how well that worked out for her. And she can't just buy out Campbell or DeVore the way she did with Compaq.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: The California primary is heating up very nicely, and it looks like the same thing is happening in your fair state. Unless I'm reading the news from Arizona wrong, it looks like McCain is facing a genuine challenge this time. Refreshing, isn't it?

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, That would be fitting somehow. He could even jump the couch, like Tom Cruise!


Lawhawk, You could be onto something. What I found interesting about her association with McCain last year was that her main accomplishment before that seemed to be in driving HP into the ground and being tossed on her rear by her Board of Directors -- a rare disgrace. It stuck me as odd, at the time, that McCain chose her as an advisor.

Writer X said...

LawHawk, if anyone can unseat him, Hayworth can. That said, it's not going to be easy. It will be interesting to see how many more things McCain will claim to have been "misled" on. I'm guessing Fiorina might not be invited to anymore barbecues at the ranch.

Andrew, McCain loves the spotlight. He'd run to Chicago to be on Oprah's show if he had to.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: So true. In fact, when McCain picked her, I was at first mystified, then realized it made perfect sense. Say one thing, do another. Fiorina seems to have a talent for turning gold into lead.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: Hayworth seems to be doing a helluva job so far. I'm not the insider in Arizona politics that I would like to be, but I've noticed that McCain seems to be trying to paint Hayworth as a closet liberal. Now that's a neat trick. It seems to call to memory something about pots and kettles. Maybe Fiorina could advise McCain on how to spend his money more wisely. LOL

CalFederalist said...

Lawhawk. We Californians who live outside the big cities may be slow, but we're not stupid. We caught the implied endorsement from Brown the minute the ad came out. It doesn't help Fiorina, and I'm not sure it does Brown much good either. Brown ran as a moderate-conservative Republican independent. Nobody here is sure what Fiorina is running as.

LawHawkSF said...

CalFed: You non-city types are the backbone of the conservative movement in California. I wish we had more like you here. Fiorina is running as a moderate, conservative, mainline, maverick, feminist, traditionalist, social liberal, big government, small government, tax-raising, tax-cutting liberal. Or something like that.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--What next? Is she going to get a truck?

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: LOL. And if her pattern so far is any indication, it will be a Mercedes, fresh off the showroom floor.

LL said...

I was surprised to see Carly's hit piece right off the bat. It shows bad judgement and doesn't elevate her campaign in my opinion.

Fiorina has suspiciously RINO credentials and I haven't seen anything to dissuade me from that opinion. Standing next to anyone for a photo op doesn't impress me much - but I'm not very impressionable.

Politicians all talk the talk -- it's what they do.

I'd like to see a senator representing California who is a true fiscal conservative and one who can show leadership in a state that seems to almost completely lack that trait in its political landscape.

Fiorina is running more or less as a McCain Republican (RINO) who is willing to bend with whatever wind may blow to feather her own nest. While even that low standard is better than Boxer, we should be able to aim higher.

LawHawkSF said...

LL: That's a pretty good assessment of Fiorina and her campaign. The fact that Campbell and DeVore (both fiscal conservatives) have done so well is a gratifying shock. The insider polls actually show Campbell ahead of both in likely voters. I'm not going to take that as gospel yet, since it's very early, and the excitement waxes and wanes with current events. But it is a very hopeful sign. Fiorina would be the old "more of the same candidate" Same crap, different package, as they say in the advertising game.

The only thing that Fiorina's election would do is put one more "R" in the Congressional Senate caucus. That's something, but it's not a lot.

StanH said...

Maybe a good analogy is Rubio v Crist in Florida. Let us remember California gave us the great Reagan! Maybe, just maybe CA has had enough of the egalitarian utopia that’s tarnished the Golden State?

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: We can only pray. Things look good here in California right now, but we're not Florida (unfortunately). Florida is still a largely moderate-conservative state that will fall for a moderate-sounding Democrat or a moderate-sounding Republican without seeing much difference. But there, Crist went way over the top, and Rubio has turned out to be a top-notch challenger.

California is institutionally considerably more of a liberal state, and we have to count much more on the "throw the rascals out" independents and moderates than do the more conservative Floridians. The Republicans have missed the fact that in Florida, a solid conservative always has a good chance against a moderate-liberal Democrat. No longer true in California. A solid conservative can win, but it requires a great deal more effort, charisma, financial support and grass-roots activism. Both Reagan and the California of Reagan are gone, and we will be in a defensive posture for decades to come.

Campbell (and perhaps DeVore) should be swamping Fiorina, and probably would be in Florida. But California is not, alas, Florida. Before sounding like I've given up, which I most assuredly have not, I also point to the "hopeless" chances of a Republican victory in Massachusetts, and my hope returns.

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