Third, Whitman is a first-time candidate, and though that is also an advantage in a year when voters are fed up with politicians, she--and her communications staff--have not run the smoothest of campaigns. Whitman has made some rookie gaffes that may require her to write more checks to her campaign. She got caught on tape in a weird presser in Northern California where she refused to answer media questions. She did not go to the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board meeting, becoming the first statewide candidate in recent history to not attend the annual tradition. She bizarrely criticized the candidate she defeated, the more conservative Steve Poizner, after the primary was over. And footage was leaked showing a town hall she held in Orange County that seemed to be staged for a campaign commercial.
Her campaign's implicit theme, though more vague slogans than detailed policies, is that she can turn around California just as she successfully managed eBay. Yet she has come across, at times, as a cold and aloof CEO who doesn't seem to stand for much but herself.
And then there is Jerry Brown, California's youngest governor, who is also trying to become its oldest--quirky, unpredictable, and wacky as always. But in this anti-incumbent year, those zany qualities may actually help Brown shed his establishment image with voters.
The proper question to ask Brown, of course, would indeed be "what's Brown done." As in, what's Brown done in this campaign to show voters he actually has a pulse. Perhaps the former governor has been saving his money, knowing he would have to maximize the bang for his buck against Whitman. Perhaps he is assuming that there are enough registered Democrats to put him over the top against any Republican. Or perhaps he's being as aloof as he has been stereotyped.
Yet in this election cycle, he has gotten more headlines for taking a shot at his nemesis Bill Clinton (who, in turn, has endorsed Brown) than he has for defining himself, this race, or Whitman. Political insiders have wondered if Brown believes California's heavily Democratic demographics are enough for him to coast to victory. If voters think Brown is taking this election for granted, it could cost him.
And of course, one cannot write about California politics without talking about sensationalism, tabloids, and the Hispanic vote, which all came to a head the day after the first gubernatorial debate, in which Whitman was poised though a bit cold while Brown was eccentric yet charming. The next day, infamous lawyer Gloria Allred held a press conference with Whitman's former housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, claiming that Whitman and her husband knew that Diaz was an undocumented immigrant while they employed her. Diaz claimed that though the Whitmans received a "no-match" Social Security letter, they knowingly employed her until it became politically inconvenient to do so. Whitman's camp is claiming that Brown is working in cahoots with Allred and exploiting and taking advantage of Diaz, something the Brown campaign categorically denies.