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Race to the Center

Jill Stewart writes in the New York Times that Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown, expected to win their parties’ respective nominations for California governor in today’s primary, will almost immediately start to tack to the center, to the extent that they have not already. The road to the statehouse is all about moving to the middle, making the primary fight the ultimate balancing act as they try to appeal to core constituencies.

Hollywood’s role in this campaign will, like so many others, be that of ATM, and so far Brown has been the chief beneficiary. With early endorsements from the DreamWorks trio of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, he’s dominated fund-raising in the industry, often via one-on-one contact as opposed to splashy events. (Recent contributors include Ben Silverman, Robert Iger and Ken Ziffren, and other boldfaced names like Frank Gehry and William Randolph Hearst III). Whitman has close ties to the business, having once been a senior Disney executive, and having been the only other person than Iger to interview for the CEO job of the company. But she has yet to draw substantial number of industry Democratic and independent donors, perhaps by virtue of the fact that many believe that she has her own resources to draw upon. She’s spent $71 million of her own money so far, passing the outlays of California self financiers of the past like Al Checchi and Michael Huffington and certainly Arnold Schwarzenegger. She’s even surpassed the $50 million that Steve Bing threw in to an environmental initiative in 2006, and certainly the amount that Schwarzenegger threw in to his own races.

What also will be interesting is the role that Schwarzenegger will play in the campaign. His celebrity still warrants attention and he is in a centrist in a party tacking right, but all signs point to him being more of a hot potato than a help. With a message of “we’ve tried this before,” Brown has made polite jabs at him at campaign events and fund raisers; and Whitman was the target of some of Steve Poizner’s attacks, including an ad in which Schwarzenegger morphs into her, “another Arnold.”

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