Tales from the Trail

In California, no voting bloc is safe

First Republican Meg Whitman, a political novice running for California governor, seemed to catch her Democratic opponent, MegJerry Brown, napping with an aggressive early push for Latino voters –  a voting bloc that has proven tough for her party to crack.  

Whitman has run a series of Spanish-language TV commercials and billboards that, according to the latest p0lls, paid off with a 14-point gain among Latinos – despite the still simmering furor over a crackdown on illegal immigrants in neighborhing Arizona that was signed into law by Republican  Governor Jan Brewer.

Brown, the state’s attorney general and a veteran California politician who served as California governor from 1975 to 1983, has been criticized within his party for being slow to respond and taking the Latino vote for granted. 

 Brown counters that the November election is still more than three months away  and points out that, as a man who marched with Cesar Chavez during the 1970s, his credentials with that constituency are well established.

Now Whitman, a billionaire former eBay CEO who is largely bankrolling her own campaign, is going after another group of voters that Brown might have considering safely in his corner:  the nurses.

Antonio was there in spirit

villaraigosaDemocrat Jerry Brown, finding himself in an unexpected tug-of-war over Latino voters with Republican Meg Whitman in the California governor’s race, this week gathered more than a dozen top Latino lawmakers and officials to his side to demonstrate their solidarity with his campaign.

Among them were state senators and assembly members, local officials and even U.S. Congressoman Xavier Becerra, who traveled all the way from Washington, D.C. to show his support for Brown during the campaign stop at California State University, Los Angeles, organizers said.

But missing was one of  the nation’s best-known Latino politician, whose office is just a few miles down the freeway: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — who campaigned so hard for Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary that some wags wondered if he had enough time left over to run America’s second-largest city.

Presidential hopefuls like Buffett for Treasury Secretary

rtx9bdy.jpgWhile White House hopefuls Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama wasted no time trading barbs in their second presidential debate, they agreed on the one man they would like to see running their Treasury Department to help pull the U.S. economy out of a tailspin: investment guru Warren Buffett.

“A supporter of Senator Obama’s is Warren Buffett. He has already weighed in and helped stabilize some of the difficulties in the markets and with companies and corporations, institutions today,” McCain said.

“I like Meg Whitman, she knows what it’s like to be out there in the marketplace.  She knows how to create jobs.  Meg Whitman was CEO of a company that started with 12 people,” McCain said, referring to one of his own economic advisers who used to run online auction giant eBay.

Musing with McCain: ‘If I were dictator…’

WASHINGTON – Sometimes it’s hard to tell when John McCain is joking.
 
Take his interview Tuesday with journalists at The Des Moines Register.
 
The Republican presidential candidate acknowledged the financial bailout measure before Congress was not perfect, but he said it was unacceptable to do nothing and admonished lawmakers for failing to pass a rescue plan.
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Then, without cracking a smile or missing a beat, he added this little nugget: “I’m not saying this is the perfect answer. If I were dictator, which I always aspire to be, I would write it … a little bit differently.”
 
With the Treasury secretary likely to have a huge amount of power under any bailout scheme, McCain was asked what sort of person he was looking for to fill that job. He said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had been doing admirably.
 
“I think a person along Paulson’s lines,” McCain said. Given the fragility of Wall Street, he added, any candidate “probably has to have a sound grounding in the financial markets and that aspect of America’s economy.”
 
The Arizona senator said if elected he would recruit the brightest and the best for his Cabinet, Democrat or Republican, in government or in business.
 
“I’ll go out and ask them to serve the country for a dollar a year,” he said.
 
He mused aloud about who might be enticed into government service: billionaire Iowa businessman Warren Buffett, eBay founder Meg Whitman, or Fed-Ex chief Fred Smith.
 

McCain strongly objected when a questioner suggested his running mate, Sarah Palin, was not as experienced as others he named as potential government servants.
 
“She’s been a mayor. She’s been an overseer of billions — I don’t know how many billions of dollars of natural resources. She’s been a member of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association). She’s been a governor,” McCain said.
 
He express skepticism when told many people, including now some conservative Republicans, questioned her level of experience.
 
“Really? I haven’t detected that,” he said.
 
“Now, if there’s a Georgetown cocktail party person who quote calls himself a conservative and doesn’t like her, good luck, good luck, fine,” McCain added.
 
“I think that the American people have overwhelmingly shown their approval. Are there people who will be detractors of her? That’s fine. That’s fine. That’s what politics is all about.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain speaks at Truman Presidential Library  in Independence, Missouri, on Wednesday)