119 Million Reasons Why Meg Whitman Can Win California

The former eBay executive becomes the biggest self-funding candidate ever

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On Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported that California GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman became the biggest self-funded candidate of all time, infusing her campaign coffers with nearly $119 million. The former eBay executive rose to prominence with a well-oiled campaign machine (witness her "Clinton-Brown" ad), putting her Democratic competitor, ex-governor Jerry Brown, on the defensive against waves of attack ads. Brown is being badly outspent by Whitman and the polls are showing that the formerly unknown candidate has now taken a slight lead over the generally well-liked former governor. The cash advantage is the main reason why many observers are leaning toward viewing Whitman as the favorite to inherit Arnold Schwarzenegger's job.

  • She Keeps 'Fattening' Her Campaign Coffers  reports The Upshot's Holly Bailey, who notes that her opponent has spent only $1 million of his personal savings. "The cash has kept her ads on the air virtually nonstop in California, and she and Brown are nearly tied in the race. That's a big deal considering the outsize advantage that Democrats enjoy in the state's party registration numbers. What's more, Republicans aren't exactly staging a Golden State renaissance -- witness the dismal approval number for GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger."

  • Brown Has History, She Needs To Catch Up  observes Celeste Katz at The New York Daily News. "Originally from Long Island, Whitman has long sought to position herself as a Bloomberg heir - a political moderate with the business experience needed to tackle dire financial problems." But, "Brown is a veteran politician with longstanding ties to California voters, and experts say Whitman has to make up that ground."
  • Jerry Brown 'Is In Trouble'  finds LA Weekly's J. Patrick Coolican, who outlines five reasons why Whitman is currently a favorite. 1) Staff: The professionals on her team are top-shelf Romney and McCain aides and they put out what has been called the finest ad of the political season in the "Clinton-Brown ad." 2) Appeal: Californians love outsider credibility; Whitman had this by running "a large organization that most Americans -- especially those who buy and sell Beanie Babies and Star Wars action figures and other junk -- really love." 3) She's stayed on message, hammered home her talking points and stayed mostly free of controversy. 4) Money: $119 million worth. 5) "Atmospherics": Jerry Brown is a stale candidate and she's been able to successful capture the zeitgeist of the "Republican year."
  • Whitman's Spending Really Is Unprecedented  points out John Myers at KQED News. "For some California context, check out a blog posting I wrote back in February 2009 which reported on a new study of the state's ten biggest political spenders of the past decade. Not only has Whitman now spent more than double the previous big spender, Steve Bing, she's now spent more than all but the top three on that list combined."
  • Money Buys 'A Vote Or Two'  writes David Knowles at AOL News. 'And all that spending seems to be having the desired effect. According to aggregate polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics, Whitman now holds a five-point advantage in California over Brown, who has thus far spent less than $1 million of his own money on the campaign."
  • Whitman Tops Bloomberg,  at least as far as massively self-financing a campaign goes, notes Anthony York at The Los Angeles Times. "Whitman has now surpassed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the most prolific spender on any one campaign. Bloomberg spent $109 million on his 2009 reelection as mayor of New York."
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