The Meg Whitman Lesson: Candidates Win, Not Consultants

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One of the most stunning stories of the 201o wave that didn’t wash over everyone: Meg Whitman, the $160 million CEO woman, who appears to have lost, according to exit polls, to a lifelong politician from the 1970s in a change election. How did this happen? What did she spend $141.5 million of her own money on? Why didn’t it matter?

She largely spent her dough on keeping herself away from the voters: On consultants, on television spots, on a press team that largely acted like an offensive line. You can see the bullet points here. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli pulls some nuggets:

The Consultants: Meg-a-millions dropped $11.6 million on her consultants. Team [Jerry] Brown: $167,000 — most of it to [Steve] Glazer. The rest to the popcorn he ate.

The Flaks: It took a team of many to keep Meg away from people who wanted to ask questions slightly more challenging than “Why would a billionaire want to be governor?” Or “Tell us about those three things you’re going to focus on, I forgot?” Among them: Communications czar/deputy campaign manager Tucker “We’ve got a scheduling conflict then” Bounds pulled in $273,000. Press secretary Sarah “Last Question” Pompei pocketed $202,000.

In other words, capitalism ain’t got nothing on democracy. Voters want to know the person. Candidates are not products. They can’t be explained with spreadsheets.