Tom McClintock, the talk show hosts John and Ken, and Meg Whitman’s critics on the right may not realize it, but they are doing her a huge favor with their blasts at her candidacy.
They are providing Whitman with a series of Sister Souljah moments.
Remember Sister Souljah? She was the hip-hop artist who infamously said after the LA riots: "If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?" She was part of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. Then presidential candidate Bill Clinton showed his independence from Jackson and the Democratic left by criticizing Souljah. Clinton was condemned by Jackson and others for doing so – which helped serve Clinton’s goals.
Whitman is doing something similar. While they may not realize it, the views of the Republican base and its most active voices, like McClintock and much of conservative talk radio, are repugnant to the sort of California independent swing voters who decide elections. Thus, they represent a huge liability for a Republican nominee in a general election.
So Whitman, by publicly disagreeing with such folks, is doing a smart thing. Her appearance on John & Ken’s Southern California radio may have been the most effective of her campaign. She may have sounded unsteady, but she disagreed with the hosts – a point that came through in TV and print reports on the encounter.
Yes, that required some verbal somersaults, most notably on the climate change law AB 32, where she’s done a violent enough flip flop (from opposing it as a job killer to saying she still supports it) to require chiropractic care. But politics has always been tough on the back.
McClintock’s non-endorsement of her is also a blessing in disguise. The congressman and former state legislator has a perfect record in statewide races – he’s lost them all – so his support is of little value. But his opposition is worth something – as a way of communicating to independent voters that she’s not one of those wing-nuts. In this way, McClintock – along with John & Ken – have a lot in common with Sister Souljah.
Of course, for serious voters, all this Whitman positioning raises a fundamental question: What does she believe in? The answer: there’s no way to tell.