California Republican gubernatorial candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman speaks to the Greater San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce March 18, 2010 in San Jose, California. Whitman is currently campaigning ahead of the California Republican primary for governor.
At first blush, it's hard to see any connection between Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and EMILY's List, the well known women's fund raising Political Action Committee. After all, Whitman describes herself as a candidate with strong conservative principles. EMILY's List is dedicated to providing financial support for progressive female Democratic candidates. So, where's the connection?
EMILY's List supports women in the first stages of their candidacies as a way of encouraging them to secure additional financial support. The acronym "EMILY" stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast because yeast raises dough. The thinking is not only clever but politically successful. Since 1985, EMILY's List has raised nearly $80 million for female liberal candidates throughout the United States, helping many to go on and raise more money en route to election victories. By providing early support, the organization has created a protocol for a successful track record.
Which takes us to Meg Whitman. No, she hasn't received any money from EMILY's list, but Whitman has employed the same strategy used by EMILY's List. During the last three months of 2009, Whitman poured $19 million into television and radio advertising. Her purpose was to introduce herself to Californians. In the process, she not only branded herself but structured the issues and discussion of the campaign. Rival Steve Poizner held back, claiming that Californians wouldn't be engaged so early in a campaign. He was wrong. By the time Poizner activated his own campaign, he devoted most of his effort to catching up to Whitman. If the polls are any indication, his effort has been too little and much too late.
Much has been made of Whitman's huge financial contribution to her campaign, which totals $68 million as of May 2010. Her largely self-financed campaign has dwarfed all previous records in California. But it's the way Whitman has used her money that has been most impressive. Her early spending has paid enormous political dividends in her quest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Come June 9th, we'll see if she does it again.
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