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Michael Hiltzik: "I'm not a billionaire ... I'm you" [Updated]

October 30, 2010 |  8:30 am

...or isn't that the theme of Meg Whitman's final round of campaign advertising?

As my Sunday column observes, today's gaggle of CEO/politicos seems unusually flatfooted on the campaign trail. Yet the failure of successful business leaders to make the leap into electoral politics is an old story.

What seems to be lacking most in Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Linda McMahon, the ex-chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment running as the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in Connecticut is empathy -- for the working class, the middle class, the voter. Even feigning empathy is an indispensable skill for the aspiring politician. These candidates don't even seem to want to try.

McMahon proposed a cut in the federal minimum wage. (To be fair, her words were ambiguous enough for her campaign to claim she was arguing for a raise, though no one seems to really believe that.) Fiorina wants to roll back healthcare reform in a way that would deny many people exactly the kind of access she enjoys through her well-funded health plan -- most recently last week, when she needed emergency treatment of a postoperative infection.

And Whitman? Astonishingly, she now says her housekeeper of nine years, whom she fired in 2009 after learning she was an illegal immigrant, should be deported. Though Whitman assured us that it "breaks my heart" to say so. In Vegas, this would be known as doubling down on a 16 against the dealer's face card.

The column begins below.

California is poised once again to compete for the crown as the nation’s leading graveyard for business superstars trying to make the jump into politics.

With election day yet 48 hours away, it’s still possible that Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina will prevail in their campaigns for governor and U.S. senator. But the betting and the opinion polls are pointing the other way. So as we face the likely, if not certain, wreckage of these two lavishly financed campaigns, it’s proper to ponder anew the following question: Why do big-time CEOs make such terrible politicians?

Of course, terrible politicians can come from anywhere, and not a few are currently serving in office. But you don’t need much more than the fingers of one hand to count the successful business leaders who have morphed into successful politicians — and the political “success” of some is arguable.

Read the whole column.

[Updated at 12:24 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled the last name of Linda McMahon as MacMahon.]

-- Michael Hiltzik

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