Wednesday, March 06, 2002


The worst argument any politician can ever make in a primary election is that he or she is more "electable" than his or her opponent(s). It sends voters the one signal they don't want to hear, which is that the candidate cares more about winning than he (or she) does about them (and their concerns).

Electability was exactly the argument that former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan made throughout most of the Republican gubernatorial primary campaign in California and, unsurprisingly, he paid the price. In yesterday's voting, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Mr. Riordan received 31% of the vote. Put another way, roughly 70% of California Republican primary voters voted for someone else. On these numbers alone, one can see the outlines of a strong case for campaign consultancy malpractice.

The excuse for this dreadful, pathetic performance being proffered by those consultants (on background, of course, no names please) is that California Governor Gray Davis skewed the results with a $10 million negative advertising attack on Mr. Riordan. And it is certainly true that Governor Davis did just that. But that doesn't even begin to explain how Riordan lost everywhere; every county, every city, every town, every hamlet, maybe every precinct (if you pit his 31% against the field's 69%).

Ordinarily, the loss of yet another fool running on electability would be no loss. But Mr. Riordan is no fool. He did a terrific job as Mayor of Los Angeles. He had a very successful career in business. He might well have been a great governor of California. The good news is that he is now free to serve in the Bush Administration. One hopes he does.

I'm a fan of Bill Simon, who is now the California Republican gubernatorial nominee. Somewhere down the road, after I return from a Fast Company reporting swing in California, I'll write up an analysis of the general election campaign. Davis is obviously the favorite, but I don't think his corner office seat is as safe as some of have suggested.