The other day a local station ran, in honor of the Primary election, the 1972 political classic "The Candidate" with Robert Redford. Redford plays Bill McCay, a young liberal underdog in the race for U.S. Senator from California.
Besides the sideburns and ties wide enough to land a 747 the movie stands up pretty well to modern politics (although everybody is tied to a land-line phone and there is no Tweeting).
The movie is also a pretty good primer for the political novice. Standard strategies are used (and explained to the inexperienced candidate). After the exhaustive campaign election day finally arrives. The campaign lines up the standard photo op of the candidate casting his ballot first thing in the morning so he can get as much free pub as possible throughout the news day. An election day comment of "we did well... I'm pleased with how we ran our campaign... now its up to the voters" is all that's needed.
Such is the way every candidate in the history of modern campaigns has operated on the day of the vote. Unless of course your name is Meg Whitman.
No photo op for eMeg today. No camera crews and reporters outside her Atherton polling station. Like close to 50 percent of voters in this election she cast her ballot by mail. Good idea. You see, most consultants (such as Whitman's political guru Mike Murphy) think of the picture and the narrative that would go with it. Imagine what reporters would be saying over the video of Whitman standing in line, grabbing a ballot, punching her votes and then dropping it into a blue ballot box. It would go something like this:
"Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman this morning cast her ballot... an act that was somewhat unfamiliar for the former high tech CEO. That's because over the past three decades the billionaire candidate never cast a ballot in an election. Not once. Not for President, not for Cupertino city council, not for the job she is now spending a fortune to win. The fact she needed to be briefed on what door to enter... what to say to the poll worker... that she had to sign in and then needed help with the punch card seemed a bit embarrassing. Sort of like when Steve Jobs couldn't get wifi during his new iphone intro yesterday."
Then the reporter gets a little more of a jab in: "Now of course, while she wasn't voting, her company was contributing money to candidates and campaigns. So one wonders if she thinks it is simply more important to buy a lawmaker than to vote for one."
Whitman has apologized on many occasions for not voting in the past (as has that other female former Silicon Valley CEO Carly Fiorina). I doubt it will be much of an issue in the campaign. But it certainly isn't a "positive" for the candidate.
Critics say eMeg is trying to buy votes with her 81 million dollar campaign. If only her money could go back in time and buy some of her own.