When it Comes to California, eMeg Wants to Buy It Now

Adding the Buy It Now feature was one of the best things eBay ever did for buyers and sellers alike. Gone were the days where buyers had to choose between bidding an enormous price for an item to guarantee that nobody else would be able to compete against them or be willing to sit by their computers refreshing the page during the last seconds of an auction to outbid any ghost buyers who were trying to make a last minute steal on an item. With the Buy It Now feature, if you wanted something you could just pay the Buy It Now price (assuming the seller set it up), and that’s it. The auction was over. Claim your item and go on with your day.

That kind of option makes sense for material goods. But now billionaire Meg Whitman (aka eMeg), former eBay CEO and Republican gubernatorial candidate, looks like she’s trying to Buy California Now. In these past few months alone, she spent $27 million on her campaign (part of that $39 million she’s given herself so far) including an unparalleled TV campaign ad-buy that’s made it nearly impossible for any other candidate for statewide office to get any real air-time between now and June (in other words, expect to see more campaign mail than usual). Without getting into detail, these ads make her sound like the answer to almost any problem. She’s supposedly a trailblazer; able to get a group of people from different backgrounds to agree to a common mission; and unafraid to take risks, meet challenges, and do the right thing. In fact, from these ads alone, I’d think Meg Whitman is actually Frodo Baggins.

Give her campaign credit. She may be the poster child for why we need public campaign financing (it’s a little ironic that she was featured on the cover of Fortune magazine), but her strategy is working. Her name identification has shot up across the state, and thanks to the Republican convention bump, the story last week was that she’s caught up to Jerry Brown who’s the only serious candidate running for the Democratic nomination. This has been unfortunate for the other Republican billionaire running for governor, Steve Poizner, who on Tuesday sent out an appeal to the conservative base of his party for volunteers on the grounds that Whitman is trying to buy the governorship. Meanwhile Poizner, like Whitman, has given his campaign $19 million (a little hypocritical don’t you think?). Pundits everywhere are wondering when he’s going to spend it assuming that he’s going to be good on his word for a hardcore media blitz during the final two months of the campaign. That could be true, but if his dismal polling numbers will make him reconsider his options (the latest polls have her leading in the primary with 60%+ of registered Republicans), he’ll probably end up being convinced by the party faithful and his financial advisors that Whitman should have the bid for the sake of uniting the Republican Party for the fall campaign and it’s not worth his money. Ultimately, this could be the master plan behind Whitman’s primary bid. Since the governorship doesn’t have a Buy It Now button to make the campaign stop, she has spent money like crazy making the cost so high that even another billionaire is reluctant to make a bid against her. For the record, when CLCV talks about building a greener governor this is not what we mean.

Rumor has it a voter once tried to tell Whitman that the governorship wasn’t for sale, but she just laughed it off and said, “Yes it is. I saw it on eBay.”

Posted on March 24, 2010


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