“People who define themselves by attacking other people’s ideas will forever live in someone else’s shadow.”
I understand that all campaigns have a need to go negative to counteract the positives of their opponents; in sports we call this defense. But Meg Whitman shocked me early in the primary race against Steve Poizner because she started running negative ads against him before I even knew much about him. Sure he had a little name recognition from being insurance commissioner, but he had not yet made any gains worthy of Whitman’s scathing television ads.
As it turned out, I voted for Poizner because I found Whitman’s approach insulting to my intelligence. She failed to make a case for herself, she was only the anti-Poizner, and she didn’t seem to have any real ideas of her own, just a bunch of slick, marketing like platitudes on her website.
A similar scenario played out in the general election campaign against Jerry Brown. Whitman went negative right after the primary election and never let up. For all intents and purposes, she kept his name alive during the summer when he was too poor to put himself on television. Yes, her negative ads actually helped Jerry Brown stay in the race even though he was doing very little. Had she taken the time to help us learn more about what she intended to do, and how she might do it, instead of criticizing him, I may have done more than briefly browse her website before clicking off because I did not trust what I read there.
The last issue was the money. In a state with unemployment over 10% most people in Califonia have no concept of what it means to have a million dollars, let alone be able to spend over 100 million on trying to get a job. She is not the first wealthy individual to seek office, and spend money on it, so that is not a negative by itself. However, an impersonal compaign focused on relentlessly tearing down her competition led this particular voter to believe she was trying to buy the election. Perhaps owing to her constant reminders of her leadership at E-Bay, the more appropriate phrase would be that she was attempting to be the high bidder. Luckily the governorship of California, is not an online auction.
Politics is about trust. Meg’s early and relentless negative campaigning signaled to me that I could not trust her.