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Run, Jerry, run!

You have to hand it to Jerry Brown. As a Californian, I was mostly averting my eyes from this year's gubernatorial race. What good could come, I thought, from a depressing showdown between another billionaire with the best talking points money can buy (Meg Whitman), and a retro throwback who was governor in the 1970s -- and only then because his daddy had the job before him. It all seemed like a grim reminder of the cynical wealth and royalty that passes for too much of America's ruling class nowadays.

Then came Tuesday night's first televised debate. And I'll just come out and say it: Jerry Brown was fabulous. The man has more energy at 72 than Whitman seems able to muster at 54. He's funny as hell, quipping that he's a great deal for Californians because he won't be taking a state pension until 80 if he serves two terms, and assuring folks there's no risk of him being distracted by a run for the presidency this time around -- though you bet he'd run again if he were younger. He knows the issues inside and out; where else can you hear a candidate talk about the trajectory of policies based on leadership he himself provided three decades earlier? And he frames them like the sharp pol he is, constantly saying, for example, that Whitman's tax cut for "billionaires and millionaires" would come directly out of the state's underfunded schools.

The big reason to be dubious about Brown is that he's in the pocket of big labor. As Whitman hammered home repeatedly, public employee unions are funding his campaign, meaning Brown will never stare them down to get California's fiscal house in order. But Brown’s reply -- that at his age, he has the "independence" and the desire to do what California needs -- struck a chord. Jerry Brown may be positioned to do a Nixon-to-China on public employee pay and pensions in ways the novice, government-bashing Whitman can't begin to.

My impressions may shift in the end. And Whitman may be imploding, anyway, from fresh charges Wednesday that she employed an illegal immigrant for nearly a decade. But whatever lies ahead, for today, at least, I'm willing to put a little faith in Jerry the Elder.

By Matt Miller  | September 29, 2010; 6:39 PM ET
Categories:  Miller  | Tags:  Matt Miller  
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Meg Whitman fires her illegal servant after 9 years during political race. What does that tell us about her?

1. She's greedy.

She could have hired a documented worker with credentials, but that might have cost more... and a credentialed employee of legal status might have wanted a day off here and there. Plus, isn't it great that your kids learn Spanish for free? Saves on the tutor.

2. She's stupid.

Did she really think she would get away with it?

3. She's a Liar.

She's saying she didn't know. She did.

4. She's vicious.

She says her former nanny is "in a lot of trouble." (with a big smile on her face. A fake one, but a smile.)

Who does she think she is? A Republican?

Posted by: Thinker_ | September 29, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Despite the fabulous (and, slightly flippant) debate performance by Jerry the Elder and the illegal housekeeper suing Whitman, Whitman will win the California governership. The race may seem close but it is not.

First, the policy differences between her and Brown are not that stark. Yes, she is a Republican running in a mostly Blue state but she is not like a rabid southern Republican. She is a moderate on social issues which will go well in California. In addition, she will get enough voters who are willing to drink the Republican koolaid around her economic policies which many voters will consider credible owing to her past as a successful CEO. Jerry Brown, on the other hand, annoyed his own people due to his opposition to Prop 19. Plus, he is seen as a relic from the past, not a springboard to the future.

Second, as is obvious, the millions of dollars Meg is burning is indeed helping. Her face is all over the place and she is pounding a lot of pavement. She is grabbing mind share among a large number of voters who will vote solely on the basis of mental recall. Jerry Brown, on the other hand, is invisible. Whitman seems to really want it (spending over a 100 million of her own money) whereas Brown seems lackadaisical. Voters tend to reward the former.

Third, even though white males are being claimed by many - such as Politico's Jane Junn - as her key (and only) base, she is going to win quite a bit of female vote as well. Many women would vote for her simply because Whitman is a "sister".

At the end of the day, people do recognize that Whitman is basically buying her way into the office but they also take that to mean that she is not doing it for the money. Voters may not see her as the best person for the job but they will see her as competent enough - certainly more than Schwarznegger ever was. Brown, on the other hand, will suffer from ageism (he himself couldn't help alluding to his age quite a bit in the debate) and fail because of an insipid campaign.

All this means that, come November, Californians will be welcoming Whitman as their new governer.

As a Dem, I don't like it but I will gladly take bets on my prediction.

Posted by: prak78821 | September 29, 2010 11:51 PM | Report abuse

This isn't the same Whitman who was eBay CEO when that company tried to screw up Craiglist through their bogus purchase of a former employee's 25% share of the company followed by a suit to make CL less useful?

It is? Why, boy HOWDY! I sure ain't going to vote for her. No way, no how.

(The fact that, while I am a native Californian I now live in Florida may also be a reason I won't vote for Whitman.)

Anyway, Jerry is okay. I first met him when I was five or so, along with his parents, who were friends with my parents. He was a decent dude then. He was a decent dude when he dated Mike Ronstadt's sister Linda, who sang with the Stone Poneys (yes, that's the correct spelling of the band's name) and is a decent dude today.

Go, Jerry, GO! W00T

Posted by: roblimo | September 30, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Matt Miller.....I could just kiss you. When I read articles after articles on Jerry Brown I could not believe how ignorant I was about all his accomplishments. Jerry Brown is WOW...I just heard he was gonna run for the 3rd time as Governor but I was not sure if he really would take on Meg Whitman. I wanted to know who Jerry Brown is. So I embarked on this self enlightenment to find out who the men really is. I was already impressed what he did for us here in Oakland, CA. (which Meg Whitman try so very hard to discredit him for what he has done for us here in Oakland, CA.) When he run for Mayor of this City, his platform was, to improve urban living = THAT, he did. He did everything he said he will do for Oakland, CA as Mayor of this City...crime was reduce tremendously, we saw the visibility of policemen on the street, we saw great improvements in this dying city, he revive and put Oakland back on the map. Of course, others will beg to differ. But I sure do not appreciate Meg Whitman telling the whole world that Oakland is a CRIME INFESTED CITY, not true...NOT WHILE JERRY BROWN was our Mayor. We have great respect for the man, and I believe, truly believe, that he will make a GREAT GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA for the third time more than ever now than when he first run his two terms as Governor of California. He now have the experience and the lessons and the know how which I’m pretty sure he learned from the past. He now can put California back on its feet. Yes...I agree, he is now one of the most seasoned political figure of all times.. -Prudence Russell

Posted by: prudencerussell | September 30, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

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