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Calif. GOP Convention In San Diego

Audio

Aired 8/20/10

The California Republican Convention revs up for the election. Convention workshops range from President Obama's foreign policy, to going after big labor, to reversing the health care legislation and San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio will lead a workshop on the pension tsunami. Do these signal what the fall campaigns will be about?

GLORIA PENNER (Host): I’m Gloria Penner. I’m joined by the editors at the roundtable These Days in San Diego. Today, we’ll check out what the California Republican Convention, in San Diego this weekend, plans for the Democrats, how the City of San Diego and UCAN plan to fight SDG&E’s plan for resetting power rates, and why United Way, the City and the County plan to help just 25 homeless people. Well, with me to talk about all this planning are Alisa Joyce Barba, western bureau chief for NPR News. Alisa, I’m so glad you could be with us.

ALISA JOYCE BARBA (Western Bureau Chief, NPR News): Good morning, Gloria.

PENNER: And David King, President and CEO of sandiegonewsroom.com. David, welcome back.

DAVID KING (President/CEO, sandiegonewsroom.com): Thank you, Gloria. Good morning.

PENNER: Good morning. And JW August, managing editor for 10News. How are you this morning?

JW AUGUST (Managing Editor, KGTV 10News): Top ‘o the morning to you, Gloria.

PENNER: And top to you, too. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. Well, it’s begun, the determined and organized push to restore Republicans to power in Washington, keep a GOP governor in California, and take out longterm U.S. Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer. And San Diego is the staging area this weekend as the Republican – the State Republican Convention attracts hundreds of delgates and guests to downtown San Diego. So, Alisa, this convention is a big deal for California Republicans. Why was San Diego chosen as the convention city?

BARBA: Well, apparently San Diego is the Republicans lucky city, I heard this morning on KPBS. The head of the California Republican Party was saying that, you know, Ronald Reagan always called San Diego his lucky city and he came down here at the end of, you know, his campaigns to celebrate it. You know, San Diego has a long and well-deserved reputation as a Republican stronghold. The GOP Convention was here, what, you know, like what, 8 years ago?

PENNER: ’96.

BARBA: Right, for the presidential election. I mean, this is a – I think there’s a lot of strong Republican feeling in this city and I think they’ll welcome the delegates.

PENNER: Even though we had a San – the city of San Diego has a slightly large Democratic registration now more than the Republicans.

BARBA: Yeah, I think it’s changed. I definitely think that it’s shifting for sure.

PENNER: Okay, well, I gave an overview of what the Republicans are hoping for—I’m going to stick with you for a moment, Alisa—in 2010. Anything you want to add other than taking back the Congress, keeping the governor’s seat, ousting Barbara Boxer?

BARBA: Ousting Barbara Boxer, I mean, the big holy grail at the end of all this, on the national level, is ousting Nancy Pelosi in Congress. She’s the Speaker of the House. And if – if the Republicans, and it’s not considered highly likely – I think they have to take back 40 or 50 seats and I don’t know the exact number in the House to reach a majority. It’s something like 10 Senate seats. The other thing they’re looking for nationally is more Republicans in the governor’s office. That’s a very big thing they’re looking for. In this state, I think what has surprised both the Republicans and the Democrats, has delighted the Republicans, is both Carly Fiorina, who’s up against Barbara Boxer, and Meg Whitman against Jerry Brown, they’re running neck and neck.

PENNER: They are.

BARBA: This is in a heavily Democratic state, these are well known candidates and we have two women that have kind of come out of relative political nowhere and they’re running neck and neck with these candidates. So that’s excited a lot of people.

PENNER: Okay, so this is the time for our listeners to weigh in if they would like to. How realistic are these Republican hopes this year? I’d like to get your opinion on this. Do you think the Republicans have a chance of getting back into the majority in Congress? Or ousting Barbara Boxer? Or packing the State Capitol, the State House with Republican leaders? Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. David, the workshops at the convention range from discussing the Obama foreign policy to going after big labor to reversing the healthcare legislation that was just signed into law by the president, and even having Carl DeMaio leading a workshop on what he calls ‘the pension tsunami.’ How relevant do you think these topics are to the fall campaign?

KING: Well, all those are relevant topics for the fall campaign. The conventions that they have twice a year, both political parties have them twice a year, move around the state and they give an opportunity for the statewide organization to mobilize the troops, to organize, to meet and go through specific issues, have specific, you know, workshops on the issues, like the ones you identified, for candidates, for the grassroots organizations. And by being here in San Diego, what it does for the local Republican organization is gets more people out and into the active swing now and it – they’re hoping it’ll have a local boost through November.

PENNER: Okay, but do you think, JW August, that this might be a good year for Republicans and, if so, why?

AUGUST: Well, traditionally, you know, the off year – it’s two years since Obama went into office, is always a good time for the out-of-work, no, maybe that’s the wrong word, out-of-power party and it looks like all the polling seems to trend that way for the Republicans. This is a – I think they have good reason to be optimistic. I would like to say something on it. The thing I’m looking forward in this convention is, Whitman showing up and the conservative wing of the party nailing her to the cross, the proverbial cross, because of her position on immigration. That’s the fun thing. I might even go down there and watch that.

PENNER: Well, interestingly enough, her opponent in the primary, Steve Poizner – usually, you know, it’s a unified approach as you get to the general election. Republicans or Democrats all come together even if they were fighting it out tooth and nail during the primaries. He has not unified with her. He is…

AUGUST: Nor McClintock, Mr. Conservative for the State of California.

PENNER: This is true. Alisa.

BARBA: Yeah, you know, the thing is it seems to me that Meg Whitman is actually being very, very smart here. I think by taking and lob – you know, a so-called moderate stance on immigration, she does not support the Arizona law. She has different policies. She’s not a, you know, really, really hardcore, anti-immigrant like some of the very conservative wing of the Republican Party here in California. She’s taking kind of a middle ground, which I think will garner support both from the moderates, independents and Latinos. In so doing, she’s going to still -- but, you know, these – the conservative wing of the Republican Party, they’re not going to vote for Jerry Brown. They’re still going to vote for Meg Whitman. So she’s going to bring them along whether they like it or not and she’s going to bring in a lot of other people. So I have to say I think she’s, you know, walking a very intelligent middle ground right here that’s going to work very well for her.

PENNER: Whitman is.

BARBA: Yeah, I do think so.

PENNER: Well, let’s hear then from Dorothy who wants to talk about Whitman. Dorothy’s in Pacific Beach. Dorothy, you’re right on topic. Go ahead.

DOROTHY (Caller, Pacific Beach): Good morning. Yeah, I was interested in the comments about Whitman running an intelligent campaign. I have to tell you that we are going absolutely crazy with these ads that she runs on the evening news, KUSI, which we tend to watch in the evening…

PENNER: Oh, Bob Kittle will be very happy.

DOROTHY: We just…

PENNER: Bob Kittle works there now.

DOROTHY: Yeah, well… We won’t be watching it much longer with these ads. I mean, it goes – it’s just crazy. Three and four times the same thing within an hour, and the truth is quite – very questionable. I mean, the people that rate these things have observed that what she’s saying is not exactly true, to put it mildly. And I think that nobody in California who has a single brain to rub against another one should vote for this woman because of the abuse that she’s subjected us to.

PENNER: Well…

BARBA: You mean the…

PENNER: Alisa.

BARBA: …abuse on the airwaves? To many – too…

DOROTHY: Yeah.

BARBA: …many commercials? Essentially too many ads. Well, she’s thrown $104 million into the campaign so far. She’s thrown tons. I mean, she’s just saturating the airwaves and there’s a sense that people are just going to get sick of hearing from her for sure.

PENNER: And that has happened in other…

AUGUST: Oh, yeah.

PENNER: …campaigns certainly. Dorothy, thank you very much for your comment. So at this point, we know that the polls are looking, at least the Gallup Poll, looks as though the Republicans do have a leg up. When it was a question of would you vote generically for a Republican member of commerce (sic) or a Democratic member of Congress, not commerce, Congress, would you vote for a Republican or a Democrat, and the numbers were rather amazing. It was something like in the mid-forties would vote Republican while the, let’s say, the high-twenties would vote Democratic. So with those polls behind them, one wonders—and let me turn to you, David, what reasons are there for the dropping poll numbers for Democrats?

KING: Well, they say that when the economy is in bad shape, it’s the only issue there is. And with 13% unemployment statewide, people are not going to vote for governor on the issue of immigration right now.

BARBA: No.

KING: That’s not the issue. The issue the – is the economy and that’s why Meg Whitman’s banner issue is not immigration. And you’re going to have the convention here and people who show up for that issue, people who live for the issue of illegal immigration want to hold out and they want to push Meg Whitman in their direction. But Meg Whitman’s not going to make that her banner issue. This is an election about the economy. The economy is in terrible condition. The Democrats are in charge in Washington, and people are seeing this rapid expansion of government that’s redefining everything, all – the TARP, the government bailouts, the healthcare legislation, and people are overwhelmed with both the state of the economy and the change in the level of the federal government. Will that make a difference in California in terms of congressional elections? We have 53 congressional districts and with our North Korean incumbency protection program there’ll probably be maybe one seat that might shift. In North Orange County, Loretta Sanchez and Van Tran, that seat may be in play and otherwise may not have been. But otherwise, I mean, how many seats are you going to see change hands in California? Probably not too many, and that’s a problem with our system.

PENNER: That – Well, a lot of it has to do with the redistricting…

KING: Right, right.

PENNER: …the way they – Well, we’ll get into that. In fact, I’m probably going to talk about that in about a week on a different program. Let me get back to this issue that you alluded to, David. And I’m going to ask our listeners about this. With the job picture so dismal now and the economy faltering, I heard really for the first time some pretty respected economists saying that a double – that a recession, a double dip recession, is about to happen. Do you feel—I’m asking our listeners—is this more about those issues, the job picture and the economy than about any candidate or about any party? Is that what this election is about? And how is that going to affect your vote? Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. Let’s go to Mike now. Mike is in El Cajon and he wants something to tell us. Go ahead, Mike.

MIKE (Caller, El Cajon): Well, I just want to point out that we have to be real suspect about these poll numbers because Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have both spent millions, in Whitman’s case hundreds of mill – a hundred million dollars, against candidates who haven’t spent a dime yet. So Brown and Boxer haven’t started campaigning, so they’re moving up a little bit but they’re campaigning against a ghost so far.

PENNER: Okay, thank you very much, Mike. JW August.

AUGUST: Good point, Mike. Before they start dancing on Jerry Brown’s grave, he has kept the bank – the vault closed. I think his plan is, you know, the last two weeks pour the money in advertising and really whap her. So I think that’s his game plan.

PENNER: Well, I know that…

AUGUST: Because he can’t outspend her.

PENNER: I know Barbara Boxer’s going to have a couple of big fundraisers right here in San Diego coming up, so it’s possible that she’s just revving up her fundraising campaign now. David, did you want to add something to that?

KING: Well, Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer are known commodities. They have a 100% name ID. Commercials are not going to introduce these people. Jerry Brown has been the governor of this state before. No one is going to rediscover who Jerry Brown is. The commercials have introduced Meg Whitman, who some people may not have known before but now they do. The unfortunate thing, as JW alluded to, is that now we’re going to see mudslinging and negative ads and attack ads and that’s, frankly, how elections are won.

PENNER: Okay, well we’ll…

BARBA: Won and lost.

PENNER: …want to do – You want to say something, Alisa?

BARBA: No, that’s fine.

PENNER: You were mumbling back there.

BARBA: I’m sorry about that.

PENNER: We – we’re going to come back to this subject in a minute. I want to return to what’s going to happen at the convention and what the purpose of this convention really is, and that’s going to be in just a moment because we’re going to go into a break now. This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.


PENNER: This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. The State Republican Convention is in town this weekend and they’re revving up for the November elections. I don’t know whether you’re revved up for them yet or not but we are talking about the convention and what’s happening there. And with me are Alisa Joyce Barba. She’s the Western Bureau Chief for NPR. And David King, president and CEO of sandiegonewsroom.com. JW August from 10News. He’s the managing editor. So let’s get back to the convention for a moment. In San Diego, the local Republican Party has been quite aggressive. In fact, the local Republicans even sued the city not to ban contributions from political parties. And the only council race that pits a Republican against a Democrat is the race to replace Democrat Donna Frye. So it’s Democrat Howard Wayne against Republican Lorie Zapf. At this convention, can we expect that Lorie Zapf is going to have a high profile?

BARBA: Well, if I was running the convention and I was the head of the California Republican Party and I was based in San Diego, I would think I would probably put her up on the podium there and give her – definitely give her some face time.

PENNER: Right.

BARBA: That would be an important thing.

PENNER: Yeah, and it’s going to be interesting to see whether local Republican candidates are going to get face time because certainly there’s going to be a lot of face time from, as we said, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.

BARBA: You know, what this is this weekend, you know, it’s not really an important political event. It is really just a pep rally for the GOP. It’s just a rah-rah, here we go, race to the finish line. You know, we have two and a half months. And it’s a way to get a lot of press essentially.

PENNER: Well it did already get press. This morning’s Union-Tribune, for example, had an article talking about their rather new diversity among the candidates and had a picture…

BARBA: A glowing article. A glowing article about…

PENNER: A front – front…

BARBA: …the diversity of the GOP, yes.

PENNER: Front page article. Let me ask you, David King, what impact will that have on the voters? So you have two women, one Latino and one African-American, all pictured. They’re all running for high office.

KING: Absolutely. And it changes, you know, it’s a positive step for Republicans, no longer just the party of angry white men. We’ve got angry people of all different genders and, you know, I mean, it is a makeover and it is a makeover for the better. We don’t need to be, you know, Republicans don’t need to be perceived as just being white, middle-aged men. You’ve got invigorating new candidates. Someone like Damon Dunn, a Stanford graduate, an NFL football player. He is an inspiring guy to be around. And this should make for a more interesting race and it should broaden the tent and it’s a good thing.

PENNER: JW.

AUGUST: Oh, and speaking of makeovers, Carly Fiorina’s going to be there and she’s going to be talking about hair styles and doing your make-up at lunchtime. So I’m going to really look forward to that one.

PENNER: Is that her topic?

AUGUST: You know – Oh, yeah. Hairstyles. Oh…

BARBA: I – He’s – You’re kidding.

AUGUST: I am kidding.

PENNER: Oh.

AUGUST: She did that thing on the satellite where they caught her talking about her hairstyle. She thought the satellite was off.

PENNER: Okay.

AUGUST: Oh, that died that quickly.

PENNER: Ohh…

AUGUST: Man, that was like news of two months ago.

PENNER: It was, two months ago. And it deserved to die quickly.

BARBA: I mean, the California Republican Party has long been plagued by the fact that most of its leading lights were really too conservative for the mainstream. And I think with this new diverse panel, as they put it, up in the front, it actually is trying to move back into the middle and it’s trying to gain some of those independent voters in the center of the mainstream in California.

KING: And just one quick point. These are not cherry-picked candidates by the party insiders to do a makeover. These are the candidates who won in the primaries against other candidates. These are the candidates who Republicans voted to choose, so this is a genuine change in the complexion of the Republican Party. It is not its selection from above.

PENNER: Just to pick up on the point that Alisa was making, David, how powerful will the independent vote be this time around for the Republican Party?

KING: The independent vote, the unregistered vote, is everything in California. The party line, particularly on the top of the ticket races, votes party line. The registered members of each party vote the party line. The independent voters are everything, and in California they’ve tend to vote Democrat in the past. That is the shift nationwide, that independent voters are saying wait a minute here, this isn’t the government that should exist.

PENNER: Well, that’s really interesting when you think about the strategy then at the convention. There, the Republicans are talking – are preaching to the choir, they’re talking to Republicans. Shouldn’t they be talking to the independents, Alisa?

BARBA: Well, this – That’s not what the convention is. You know, the convention is preaching to the choir. What’s going to happen is Meg Whitman’s going to come and she’s – I think she’s giving a speech tonight and then she’s out of here so that for the next couple of days, if the conservative wing comes in and start beating up on her on immigration and on climate change legislation, which they are promising to, she’s not even going to be around. You know, they are literally going to be beating up on her in her absence and it won’t make much of a difference, I’m afraid.

PENNER: Okay, well, with that, we’re to switch topics and I thank you very much for that discussion, editors.

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