Monday, November 08, 2010
The big blue bastion
Sen. Barbara Boxer made a low-key campaign swing through northern California at the end of July. She dropped in one Saturday at the home of a former statewide office-holder. It was more of a meet-and-greet than a fundraiser, although a few bucks were collected. (I picked up a Boxer T-shirt and a Boxer bumpersticker to display on my car during my next trip down Highway 99 into reddest California.) Boxer's main purpose was to rally the troops. Several present and former elected officials were present, as were several present and former staff aides. A mix of young up-and-coming volunteers joined the old-timers and rounded out the group.
After some schmoozing and mingling, Sen. Boxer held court in the host's living room. She thanked everyone for their support and tried to assuage our fears about the summer polls that showed her in a virtual tie with Carly Fiorina. Boxer was used to running (and winning) tight races, although it would be more of a challenge in what was shaping up to be a Republican year. She outlined the sharp contrasts between her positions and those of her opponent. It was an effective motivational speech. The adrenaline level in the room went up.
Boxer ran smoothly through her remarks and then entertained questions from the attendees. One of the first queries was not about her campaign.
“Can you tell Jerry to get off his ass and start campaigning? We see nothing but Whitman ads all the time.”
The senator's hands were clasped. She squeezed them tight for a moment and then relaxed a little. It seemed to me that she had heard this question before and was just a little weary of it.
Someone in the crowd helped Sen. Boxer look for the silver lining.
“Whitman's ad campaign is so excessive it could be counterproductive. I'm sick of them.”
Sen. Boxer smiled.
“Jerry will match her in the homestretch, when it really matters,” she said.
We now know that Boxer was right. Jerry Brown knew what he was doing. Like a guest who overstayed her welcome, Meg Whitman was incessantly in our faces with an unavoidable avalanche of political ads. Even her supporters sometimes marveled at the overkill. When the Brown campaign took to the airwaves, his low-key ads were a welcome relief from Whitman's mindless repetition of talking points. One of Brown's spots mocked Whitman as a word-for-word clone of Arnold Schwarzenegger, juxtaposing the Republican incumbent and the Republican candidate mouthing the exact same slogans and catch phrases.
The once and future governor amply justified Sen. Boxer's faith in the old politician. At the top of the Democratic ticket, Jerry led a complete sweep of California's statewide offices (with the possible exception of the attorney general's office, where the votes are still being counted). California is true blue because its Democratic candidates know what they're doing.
Welcome back, Governor Brown. I guess experience counts.