Friday, June 02, 2006
The Morning Grind
Democrats lacking unity in California

Heading into the midterm elections the Democratic Party is largely unified -- bonded together by contempt for President Bush and the chance of winning control of the House and Senate as well as several gubernatorial races.

Then there is California.

The two Democrats vying for the party's gubernatorial nomination are spending millions of dollars attacking each other as the primary campaign heads into its final days. The chief beneficiary is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who just months ago entered the campaign a wounded incumbent, and now will face a battered Democratic nominee in November. The establishment candidate is Phil Angelides, the state Treasurer who made millions in real estate. But Steve Westly, the state Controller and former eBay executive, is digging deep into his own pockets and spending millions for a chance to take on Schwarzenegger.

In television advertising dollars alone, Westly has spent nearly $34.8 million, while Angelides has committed $19.4 million, according to an analysis by TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending. A pro-Angelides group made up of homebuilders, firefighters and others have spent an additional $6.5 million, the analysis shows.

At the current rate, Westly is spending $1.3 million and Angelides is spending $680,000 on TV advertising a day, said Evan Tracey, TNSMI/CMAG's chief operating officer.

"When all is said and done, the Democratic primary in California will be one of the most expensive in state history, with the top two candidates combining to spend over $60 million and interest groups and unions kicking in an additional $8 million," Tracey said.

Specifically, Westly's TV ads have attacked Angelides on his tax plan, accepting contributions from energy companies, his environmental record as a land developer and other issues. Angelides has responded by accusing Westly on his tax plan and his closeness to Schwarzenegger, among other topics.

Another California race receiving attention is the special election to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California). Cunningham was recently sent to jail for accepting bribes. The San Diego based seat should have been a lock for the GOP in this heavily Republican district, but Cunningham's problems and President Bush's sagging poll numbers has put it in play.

Democrats hope that Francine Busby can ride the anti-corruption wave to victory on Tuesday, while Republicans are putting their faith in former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-California) to keep the seat in the GOP column. For Democrats, a win would be a major victory and spark talk of early signs of a wave that could topple Republicans from power in November. Even a strong showing by Busby in this reliably Republican district will be spun by Democrats as a victory. A Bilbray win will give Republicans the opportunity to claim the Democratic campaign theme of "culture of corruption" is not working.

Amy Walter, a senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said no matter what happens on Tuesday, the GOP still has problems it must address before the midterm elections.

"Regardless of the outcome, the bottom line remains that the political climate continues to look bleak for Republican candidates," Walter said.

One of Bilbray's main campaign planks is for strict immigration laws, a position that forced Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to cancel an appearance at a fundraiser on Bilbray's behalf earlier this week. Bilbray opposes McCain's legislative plan to provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. A major campaign theme for Busby is the ongoing corruption scandal on Capitol Hill. She has even called for Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) to resign his seat. Jefferson is being investigated for accepting bribes.

Overall, TNSMI/CMAG estimates that Busby has spent $2.4 million on television advertising, while Bilbray has put $484,000 worth of campaign ads on the air. The National Republican Congressional Committee has committed $3 million to TV ads on behalf of Bilbray and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $1.7 million for Busby.

***


At a breakfast earlier this week at the New York State Democratic Convention in Buffalo, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) told a story about a hotel worker who pleaded with her during the 2000 Senate campaign not to forget the economically depressed city. Clinton then pledged to the audience that she will never forget Buffalo -- an interesting line seeing that just about everyone thinks Clinton is running for president. But The New York Democrat is keeping her word. Just 48 hours after accepting the Democratic nomination to run for a second term, she returns to the city for two events today. Clinton attends an 11 a.m. ET ribbon cutting ceremony for a new cancer institute at Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and then visits the St. Adalbert's Response to Love Center at 1:15 p.m. ET.

***


House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) is in Iraq today (see Dayahead for details) and urged the Iraqi people not to listen to al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's instructions for Sunnis to continue to battle the Shiites for control of the country.

"I urge the Iraqi people to look forward not back," Hastert said. "Listen to the voice of reconciliation, not the voice of division. Choose unity, not division."

CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports that, on the plane ride to Iraq yesterday, the Air Force presented Hastert with a cake that read "Congratulations Mr. Speaker" in honor of him reaching the milestone of being the longest serving Republican speaker.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/02/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
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