|Wed Nov 3 2010 10:36:43|
Why Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman Lost Her Bid for Governor
By: Ina Steiner
After a decade running eBay, Meg Whitman stepped down as President and CEO two years ago and threw her hat in the ring for governor of California. For what seems like an eternity to Californians who suffered through political ads funded by her personal fortune, the race was decided by voters on Tuesday - Republican Whitman lost to Democrat Jerry Brown by a wide margin.
The odds had been in Whitman's favor:
- while normally experience might matter, the country was in an anti-incumbent mood. Brown had been in politics for decades and had previously been governor of the state;
- the Tea Party movement favored fiscal conservatives as Whitman proposed to be;
- and, of course, the money. Whitman spent north of $160 million (about $142 million of her own) on consultants and advertising. One columnist said he was captive on the train as he went to work yesterday as two campaign workers went from car to car giving a pro-Meg/anti-Jerry pep talk on the morning of the election.
The LA Times said Jerry's legendary quirkiness worked in his favor, and said of Whitman, she "often relied on well-lighted sets and memorized lines, as if campaigning on a sound stage. In the end, a candidate who had been around the block for 40 years came off as a more authentic alternative than a newcomer with all the resources Whitman could command."
One of the questions voters had to answer was whether a business leader could transfer her skills to running a state government. Aside from the politics of Republican versus Democrat, conservative versus liberal, I think it's interesting to ponder whether Meg's experience at eBay would have helped her run the state of California.
While there is skill involved in growing even a wildly successful company like eBay, it's a different problem that California is facing - eBay was certainly not a financially troubled corporation. I don't think her experience as a business leader hurt her chances, but I don't think she was able to make the case that running eBay would help her get the state out of its financial crisis.
Whitman's inability to go off-script during the campaign made it appear she only had a superficial understanding of the challenges facing California. Add to that her lack of voting record, exorbitant campaign spending and finally, Nanny-gate, and it gave her all the trappings of a candidate that appeared to have a sense of entitlement to the Governor's office, and disconnected from the average voter.
Finally, Meg just plain overexposed herself to California voters. I came across a YouTube video that showed Giants fans in the final Game of the World Series booing Meg when her ad came on the monitor. Jerry Brown explained it when he told reporters yesterday, "You gotta remember, name recognition is good, but name repetition and the repetition of ads can be very debilitating, and I think thatâ€™s a lesson I learned a long time ago."
Meg is not someone who gives up, and her friends Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W Bush have awoken an ambition in her that likely includes 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Don't count on Meg to walk away from politics.