How Bill Clinton factors in California governor race
Former President Bill Clinton found himself tossed between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman this week. Clinton endorsed Brown, but how the candidates respond could have more of an impact.
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“Whitman simply should not promulgate mistruths in her advertisements,” adds Jessica Levinson, political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies “Clinton’s charges against Brown back in 1992 need to be put in an honest context, since they have been discredited. Negative attack ads are fair game, but mistruths are not.”Skip to next paragraph
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Other analysts say Clinton’s endorsement, if played correctly by Brown, will certainly help him.
“Clinton is currently the de facto leader of the Democratic Party,” says Villanova University political scientist Lara Brown, author of “Jockeying for the American Presidency.” “Moreover, he is popular in the Golden State….”
“You remember, right? There's that whole story there about 'did he or didn't he,' ” said Brown Monday, referring to Clinton's infamous defense of his relationship with Lewinsky. Brown apologized to Clinton soon after making the remark.
Because of all this, some analysts say Clinton has simply out maneuvered Brown by taking the high ground.
“Clinton and Brown have always disliked each other,” says Jack Pitney, political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. “But apparently Clinton thought that it would be in his own interest to endorse Brown. It enhanced his reputation as a party-unifier. It also gave him a chance to look big when Brown looked small.”
“Brown miscalculated with his words,” says Villanova's Brown, “because certainly Clinton is better-liked among Democrats in California than Brown – and he was right to apologize to the former president.”
How it plays with voters from here depends on actions by both Whitman and Brown, say analysts. The California State Department of Finance has supplied Factcheck.org with the precise tax figures on record during Brown’s governorship, and director Brooks Jackson has issued the following: “A story I reported 18 years ago for CNN has recently become an issue in the California governor’s race. Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate, quoted it on her website on Sept. 6. Her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, says I got it wrong. Brown is right; I made a mistake in my 1992 report.”
The ad back-and-forth providers fodder for the spat to continue, says O'Connor. “I suspect Jerry will incorporate this in his next round of ads,” she says. “We’re really talking about the need for both candidates to get the 30 percent of voters calling themselves Independents."