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Steve Lopez: Meg Whitman spent $50 for each vote she got. Is that an outrageous extravagance?

November 4, 2010 |  9:12 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef013483a0868a970c-600wi

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If you want to find something to feel good about in Tuesday's election results, look to the fact that money isn't everything.

As of Oct. 16, according to the secretary of state's office, Meg Whitman spent almost $107 million on TV and radio advertising to Jerry Brown's $21 million.

She spent $11.7 million on campaign consultants to Brown's $167,000.

She spent $10.5 million on campaign literature and mailings to Brown's $2.5 million.

She spent $5.9 million on campaign worker salaries to Brown's $157,000.

She spent $2.3 million on office expenses to Brown's $132,000.

Total expenditures? Whitman spent six times as much, or $160 million -- $141 million of it her own -- to Brown's $24.8 million.

You'd think the former EBay exec would know a good deal when she sees one, but she ended up paying roughly $50 for each of her 3 million-plus votes, and got trounced.

Maybe it wasn't too bright, after all, to outspend Brown by more than six times while trying to cast herself as a cost-cutter and Brown as a big spender.

But did Whitman lose because voters were turned off by her outrageous extravagance at a time when unemployment is in double-digits? Or did she lose because she didn't have the goods on policy?

I'd say both things did her in, as did her cold-fish personality and the revelation that as a student, she had apparently skipped classes on both civics and suffrage, having gone decades without stepping inside a polling booth.

But I say Whitman would have done much better if she had explained how exactly she intended to fire 40,000 state employees while growing the economy, improving schools and slashing spending. If she'd made any of it seem even remotely realistic, she might even have won, no matter how much cash she set fire to.

Don't you think?

-- Steve Lopez

Photos: Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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