I’m sure she isn’t this callous. But, if I were Meg Whitman,
I’d be rooting hard against a quick economic recovery.
Why? Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had conversations
with California fundraisers and donors from across the political spectrum. They
all said the same thing: no one has any money. And donations to campaigns and
causes of all kinds are way off. Gavin Newsom’s recently publicized
difficulties in turning President Clinton’s endorsement into a big fundraising
score are only one example of this trend. Raising money for politicians is
very, very difficult right now. Estimates that the 2010 governor’s race could
be a $500 million campaign are way too high, I’ve been told.
So, while it’s always nice to be very, very rich, there’s
never been a better time than right now to be a billionaire running a
self-funded campaign. The comparative advantage Whitman (and to a lesser
degree, Steve Poizner) enjoys over Tom Campbell, Jerry Brown and Newsom is
huge. If the economy stays in the dumps, it’s possible that even Jerry Brown,
the Democratic frontrunner who has been very strong in fundraising, will be
unable to raise enough to stay within hailing distance of Whitman.
This dynamic could help reverse the normal political logic
of a campaign. Typically, the party that is trying to keep the governor’s
office – yes, Republicans, that’s you – would find it advantageous for the
economy to be doing pretty well. But next year, the Democrat gubernatorial
candidates may have the most to gain from an economic revival. They badly need
their donor base to feel richer.