Independent Expenditure (IE) campaigns attacking Republican Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman have started advertising. The first ad to air was produced by an outfit called Level the Playing Field 2010, made up of an A-list of Democratic political consultants.

This first ad claims Whitman is trying to buy the election with her billions. That argument won’t push aside the big issues of this election year: jobs and California’s budget problems. We’ll hear about jobs from the IE ads, as well. They will say that Whitman as a business executive made some decisions that reduced jobs. But, she will win that fight because she created many more jobs and the Democrats’ charge will open the debate on the policies of the Democratic controlled legislature that have driven so many jobs away from California.

The Democrats don’t want to talk about the budget problem, either. Their usual solution of tax increases won’t fly in the current political environment. And, they will have to defend a candidate in Jerry Brown who set California on its current wayward path by creating what columnist Dan Walters called the “hegemonic power of public employee unions” by granting them collective bargaining, which has resulted in such a strain on state and local government budgets.

The rationale behind the Independent Expenditures we are told is to paint Whitman different hues of nasty and bad for California before she runs away with the race. This while most voters are really not paying attention. However, running early ads is not fruitless.

Coming out with early ads serves the purpose of testing attack themes.

With pitchers and catchers soon reporting to the major league baseball spring training camps, look at these Independent Expenditures as you would baseball spring training. Like ball players under the watchful eyes of a manager, the ads will try different themes to see what works. The ads that score well get to play in the big time during the general election (assuming Whitman makes it that far).

There’s one more thing at work with these early Independent Expenditures.

The Independent Expenditures are indeed leveling the playing field – for the Democratic consultants. They look at the money Whitman is spending on Republican consultants and drool. Now they, too, can grab a piece of the political money pie.