The campaigns of relentlessly bickering Democratic gubernatorial rivals Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, absent past bravado, head toward the home stretch of their dead heat race for the Democratic nomination. Here is what the candidates are doing between now and the weekend, and why, as they continue their desperate struggle for the right to run against Arnold Schwarzenegger.
State Controller Steve Westly, the ex-eBay honcho who test marketed and honed his candidacy in small markets a few months ago, has been spending much time in them on the statewide bus tour he kicked off a week ago. Why? Westly’s TV ad blitz developed real strength in the Los Angeles and San Francisco media markets, but when Angelides and the independent expenditure campaign principally funded by the development empire of his campaign finance co-chairman and longtime patron and partner, Angelo Tsakopoulos, roared back onto the air after a few weeks absence, Westly found himself in trouble in the other media markets.
Personal attention can make a big difference for a candidate for a big office in a small market, so Westly is back in person. But inevitably, his tour will take him back toward the big markets as the campaign comes to its close.
Meanwhile, over the next three days Westly and his wife, Anita Yu Westly, will be campaigning in Ventura County, various parts of Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and San Diego. His events will focus on education, the environment, veterans, and senior citizens.
Today Westly is in Thousand Oaks touring a medical clinic. Then there is an event at UCLA, and a senior citizen event in the San Fernando Valley. He will do more events in Los Angeles on Thursday, trying to shore up his strength there.
On Friday, Westly goes to the Inland Empire to tour a solar manufacturing facility, has a lunch event with workers, goes to suburban San Diego to visit a senior citizen center, and has a town hall in San Diego.
While Westly is doing this, his campaign will continue airing its attack ads against Angelides. The focus continues to be on his environmental record as a developer.
Although principals in both the Westly and Angelides campaign have historically subscribed to the theory that a campaign is best served by focusing on driving a few core messages home to the electorate through a few TV ads over the closing sequence of a campaign, both campaigns are violating that principle as they seek advantage. Angelides went through a bout of advertising arrhythmia recently, airing five TV spots statewide over a course of six days as the candidate reacted to the attacks mounted against him. Now Westly’s campaign is doing something like that, in what might be described as a flurry strategy, forcing Angelides to respond.
The latest Westly attack ad on Angelides, continuing the environmental theme, concerns his partnership with Tsakopoulos and others in a condo development at Lake Tahoe. Westly accuses Angelides of polluting the big blue lake in the sky, one of California’s scenic crown jewels. Angelides, who seems to have had a small piece of the project, says he was not responsible and sued the primary developer who he says was responsible. Angelides then transferred his interest in the project to Tsakopoulos.
For his part, Angelides, whose long expected bus tour has yet to materialize, will continue his practice of jetting up and down the state between the major population centers. His campaign will continue trying to push the “fat cat” visual (some poor soul in a suit sent by Angelides honcho Bob Mulholland) at Westly’s bus tour stops as part of the overall theme that Westly is buying the election so he can do favors for other rich people.
This is in synch with the current Angelides TV advertising push to paint the super-rich Westly as a “pay to play” politician. The campaign held a media conference call yesterday to push a Sacramento Bee story which revealed that Westly had invested in Goldman Sachs, the leading investment banking firm, prior to approving Goldman Sachs and other houses financing California’s revenue anticipation notes when the state was in financial extremis a few years ago. Westly says Goldman Sachs, one of the eminent Wall Street firms, was one of the few eager to provide finance and that his investment was a minor part of his portfolio. The press doesn’t seem interested in the story.
A TV attack ad on the issue is expected, complementing the current ad linking Westly to “a corrupt Chicago businessman” who gave several thousand dollars to Westly and whose firm subsequently received a $5 million investment from a state pension fund. Angelides also solicited the businessman, a recent top fundraising official for Al Gore and the Democratic National Committee. There is also a likely ad on Westly raising money from the Barnes and Noble bookstore chain after advocating that the company not pay back taxes on its Internet sales.
As his campaign dukes it out with Westly’s in dueling attack ads, Angelides will appear mostly at education and labor-oriented events. That is the core of his candidacy, that he is the candidate who wants to spend the most money on public education and is the candidate closest to the state’s powerful public employee unions. Angelides hopes that this core message and set of associations will enable him to prevail in an election which may draw only a preponderance of hardcore Democratic voters. He seems to be doing somewhat fewer public events than Westly, but fills up the rest of the time with TV and radio interviews and fundraising.
Today Angelides will be in San Francisco, where he will again attempt to push back against the Westly TV attack ads with an environmentalists event. He will also appear at a high school in Sacramento.
On Thursday, he has another school event in San Francisco, jets down to LA for a beach town event with Senator Dianne Feinstein, then flies back for a San Jose event.
On Friday, Angelides does firefighter and police union events in the Bay Area, then goes to San Diego. Where, as it happens, Westly will also be appearing.
Whose approach will work best? That will be clearer by the weekend.