Piotr Brzezinski

California Dreamin’

California Dreamin’
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Amidst the Democrats’ doom and gloom over the US midterm elections, there is one race that will give Obama hope, and it is in the world’s 8th largest economy: California. The state’s once and would-be future Governor, Jerry Brown, looks set for a comfortable win over Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay. Recent polls have put Brown, a career Democratic politician, ahead by nearly double-digit figures.

 Brown leads despite the broader anti-insider, anti-Democrat wave; despite Whitman’s $141m campaign spend; despite having earned the nickname ‘Governor Moonbeam’ when last running the state; and despite gaffes like accusing Bill Clinton of lying not long after he appeared at a pro-Brown rally;  Brown’s aide even called Meg Whitman a “whore” in a phone conversation.

 

And yet he seems certain to win. Like Mitt Romney, Whitman has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by fence-sitting on key issues. After papers revealed that her housekeeper was an illegal immigrant, Whitman first described the nanny as “a friend and a part of our extended family” then said that her “friend” should be deported, managing to alienate both Hispanic voters and anti-illegal immigration voters.

Likewise, her tortured position on gay marriage – in favour of civil unions, against gay marriage, but willing to recognize existing marriages – has backfired.

Whitman’s struggles on both issues illustrate the Republicans’ difficulty making inroads beyond their core voters. For the party to make the gains of 2010 sustainable, they’ll have to appeal to non-white voters, especially culturally conservative Hispanics. But, as demonstrated in California, they’ve shown no ability to do so.

 

So Governor Moonbeam is back. When he ran for President in 1980, Brown’s campaign slogan was "Protect the Earth, serve the people, and explore the universe." Given California’s prolonged crisis – legislative paralysis and budget deficits of $12bn – he’ll have to start closer to home.