Republican strategist Mike Murphy went on “Meet the Press” this morning to give his take on why Meg Whitman lost. His view is that Whitman was offering “tough medicine,” and the voters weren't interested.

“We just had some tough answers that people didn't want,” Murphy said.

Huh? Is this the same Whitman campaign that promised to balance the budget without raising taxes and without cutting education?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — another Murphy client — made those same promises when he ran for office, and he turned out to be wrong on both counts. So you can decide for yourself whether Whitman's prescription was tough medicine or snake oil.

She was tough on state employees — at least, the non-public safety employees — vowing to cut 40,000 state jobs and $15 billion from the state budget, while transferring state workers to 401(k) plans. But she never specified what services people would have to give up. Besides, if bashing public employees were a losing strategy, then Schwarzenegger wouldn't have been re-elected.

Most of the post-mortems chalk up Whitman's defeat to a combination of her inability to connect with voters, her housekeeper, and her excessive spending. The first two issues might not have been entirely within the campaign's control — though they could have been handled better — but the third one was.

On that point, Murphy said that in California, Republicans are in a no-win situation:

It's a Hobson's choice for Republicans in California because the big unions in the last couple of years have spent $300 million on politics. So you either can't raise enough money to compete and they swamp you–because the public employee unions run California politics, they paid for Jerry Brown's campaign–or you spend your own money. But if you're a self-funder, the press wants to make that money the issue.

There is another option, though, and that would be to spend $50 million rather than $160 million, thereby avoiding the label of “biggest self-funding candidate in history.”

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