Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina didn’t think it would be so easy. Both women fought hard and campaigned like champions. Both Women had Republican challengers that ran aggressive campaigns against them. But both Carly and Meg won big. And both races were over shortly after 9 p.m.
Meg Whitman seemed to have a scary primary race developing when Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner ran a series of immigration ads in the last few weeks that made the race tense and close. Meg quickly responded with tough ads of her own to correct her record. More importantly, she never lost her cool. Meg proved she was a tough leader that knows how to fight. She showed California voters that she can handle the rough and tumble world of politics. Poizner’s aggressive campaign ultimately made Meg a better candidate. While she may have started as a soft spoken CEO, Poizner forced Meg into finishing as a sturdy leader that is focused in her message and comfortable in her abilities.
Carly Fiorina also had a tough primary battle. While Tom Campbell had little money, his message hit Carly hard. But Carly responded with both brilliant campaign ads and old fashion retail politics. Carly worked hard to criss-cross the state and campaign vigorously. She seemed to enjoy one on one conversations with everyday Californians in a way many pundits didn’t think possible. Carly knows the issues and is surprisingly and genuinely personable. Carly, too, is a better candidate because of Tom Campbell.
For Meg, Jerry Brown is the perfect opponent. And for Carly, running against Barbara Boxer presents voters with drastically different choices. Brown is all talk with very little to show for his decades of political activity. The last time Jerry Brown was governor, he left the state with record unemployment and a budget deficit of more than $1 billion. Meg is soft spoken with a lifetime of business success. While voters across the country are tired of career politicians like Brown and Boxer, Californians in particular are wary of self-serving politicians that have left the state near fiscal collapse. Barbara Boxer, who is known as mean-spirited and difficult to get along with, is the poster-child for out-of-touch politicians with stale ideas. Boxer has many detractors who are energized to throw her out of office but few vocal supporters outside of the traditional union members that support all democrats. Carly, on the other hand, is smart, new to the scene and optimistic.
While east coasters erroneously think California voters are overwhelmingly liberal, Golden State residents are consistently anti-tax and fiercely independent. Californians are progressive and willing to try creative solutions to problems. Unlike other risk-adverse states, California tries everything out. How else can you explain a state that elected Hollywood icon Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor and overwhelmingly passed Proposition 8, the anti-gay statewide ballot initiative? Solidly liberal states would never have voted for Arnold and Prop 8. The current political climate for incumbents, combined with California’s penchant for continuous improvement and inventive ideas, spells trouble for old guards like Brown and Boxer.
This November, California voters have a clear choice – Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer who are uber-liberal career politicians with a history of support from special interests or Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, female Chief Executive Officers with decades of business experience and new ideas to try and turn around California’s dwindling future.
Richard Grenell served as the spokesman for 4 U.S. Ambassadors to the UN – John Negroponte, John Danforth, John Bolton and Zalmay Khalilzad. And is the longest serving US spokesman at the UN (2001-2008).