Written with Zach Friend for the Huffington Post. It would be easy for someone to think, as they are inundated with TV and radio ads, yard signs and precinct walkers, that Meg Whitman is actually running for California’s governorship. Such a quaint idea. But $120 million of self-financed glory really portends something more: an investment in 2012.
After all, let’s take a look at Meg’s actions over the last few years. In 2008 she acted as an economic adviser to Mit Romney’s campaign and later as co-chair of John McCain’s presidential campaign. Whitman spent recent days campaigning with Rudy Giuliani, who spoke of her ability to slash government spending and lower taxes (all traditional GOP national talking points). These actions represent a significant fraction of her total political experience. Which are germane to running California? That’s right, none.
Over the last few months Whitman has averaged nearly $1 million a day in spending, for a total approaching $140 million. Most of that, more than $90 million, has been spent on TV and radio advertisements attempting to build the Meg Brand. Polls show her down anywhere from 2-7 points.
What exactly would a Whitman presidency look like? That’s hard to tell. According to the Sacramento Bee, she registered to vote less than ten years ago and first registered as a Republican in 2007. This means she was eligible to vote for 28 years but didn’t. But you probably figured you could visit her website to glean some insight into her vision for California (after all, she IS running for governor of California, right?). So here it is, taken directly from her policy pages:
Meg Whitman is running for governor to help write the next chapter in our state’s great history. She does not accept the fate the doomsayers want to lay at our doorstep. Meg understands the magnitude of the changes that are required to rebuild California. None of this will be easy, but nothing important and worth doing ever is.
That is verbatim. If you’re like us, you have no idea what it means. The platitudes continue on her policy pages: “improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government,” “cut spending” and “institute a strict spending cap.” No details on how, of course. All the while she attacks Jerry Brown for having something she doesn’t; a voting record.
Whitman’s political record is so thin that it’s hard to know what motivates her. But all by itself, the gargantuan scale of her spending is powerfully suggestive. If nothing else, she is a businesswoman. As an investment, $140 million on one roll of the dice for the governorship makes no sense. But if the real goal is the presidency? Then we’re just talking about a down payment. Win or lose in 2010, her massive outlay builds a national profile for 2012.
Maybe Meg Whitman can’t beat Jerry Brown, even by outspending him 10 to 1. But she may justifiably be more confident about beating the lackluster field vying for the GOP’s next shot at the White House.