By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
"If there was ever a moment for someone to speak up about how to turn California around, this primary was it," Caddell says. "Instead, you have 36 million people with the most dysfunctional state government in the United States, and the Democrats had Brown running unopposed and unquestioned for this critical nomination? And the Republicans, they go and put up two multimillionaires?
"Now that's what is wrong with the two parties, right there," Caddell says. "He is a flawed candidate; she is a flawed candidate. The outcome will be determined by something other than their personalities."
Voter backlash could quickly mount against either candidate — Brown because he is the ultimate lifelong political insider in a "throw-the-bums-out" year, or Whitman because she dallied with Goldman Sachs in order to get richer and has spent $80 million, mostly of her own money, to become a household name from Redding to San Diego.
The mystery — and the one that Brown and Whitman will now spend tens of millions of dollars to unravel — is what do the undecided voters fear and want?
Urbanist and author Joel Kotkin, who has written extensively about the surge in middle-class flight from California to other states since 2000, says swing voters include "a lot of people from specific sectors, who have seen their jobs just vanish. We are talking about skilled blue collar and white collar moving out of California. Symantec is expanding, but all of its growth is unfolding outside of California, while its executives in Silicon Valley do quite well. Many working people in the private sector, who voted for Obama, now are worried that taxes and regulations are hitting them first and worst."
Adds Democratic consultant Rich Lichtenstein, owner of Marathon Communications, "You got grumpy people who think it's a cesspool in Sacramento, wondering who is less likely to be part of the problem. This is an issue for Jerry because he is the consummate insider. Meg has to hold onto the undecided females who might want to vote for a woman, but I am not sure Meg Whitman is a woman — she may have testicles, and that may be a good thing too in this campaign."
Lichtenstein is particularly concerned after having met with Brown at Gray Davis' home not long ago, and finding him to be "tired, old-seeming and just saying that he has a lot of good ideas. He has to really articulate how he is going to make his ideas work."
Yet Jonathan Wilcox, a Republican political analyst who played a key role in the recall of Governor Davis, is almost effusive in his view that Brown will develop his ideas, and has the potential to come off as a sort of superhero candidate who catches the undecided voters' imaginations.
"My warning to Republicans is that Jerry Brown is going to run a very thoughtful campaign, and Meg and her millions are going to have their hands full. Jerry Brown is going to say some things people are not expecting.
"The anti-incumbent climate is right for somebody like Whitman, but this is not your father Jerry Brown's campaign," Wilcox says. "He is an interesting fellow and he is going to engage on the big ideas. Even with her enormous money, the other side will have a lot of money, too. This is one really, really, really interesting guy. Undecided voters are going to be paying attention."
One potential shocker Wilcox predicts: Brown will force his huge, rich, labor-union backers to join him in publicly questioning the massive pensions owed to state workers, who pay only a fraction into their retirement accounts but are then guaranteed the equivalent of $1 million for a low-skilled state clerk, and, moreover, can retire in their 50s, at the height of their productivity and ability.
"These gross public-employee pensions could wind up where the tribal gaming forces ended up during the recall of Gray Davis, when the tribes crippled the campaign of Cruz Bustamante," Wilcox says. "The tribes were the symptom of what was wrong: Davis' unhealthy obsession with special-interest money, people who did not pay their fair share. This year people will say that excessive 'taking' by anybody — by politicians, special interests, and now the public-employee pensioners — is a symptom of the core problem."
But as Franklin Gilliam, dean of the UCLA School of Public Affairs, notes, Whitman will run "a real outsider strategy, saying she is about big innovations. Jerry will say, 'It's great to be able to do that when you can command it, but you cannot command anyone in Sacramento.' Arnold tried that, and failed to build relationships upon which he could rely. Look where it got him."
—Gene Maddaus contributed to this report