Cheney endorses Whitman in CA gubernatorial primary; Update: Poizner responds

Observers will want to ask two questions about the endorsement of Meg Whitman by Dick Cheney in the California GOP primary for Governor: why, and why now?  The former VP and conservative stalwart answers the first, in rather personal terms.  Considering the reason Cheney offers to oppose Steve Poizner, the timing seems even more remarkable:

While I am always mindful of President Reagan’s 11th Commandment, there are issues of judgment that voters should consider before they cast their ballots in the Republican primary. I admire the success that Steve Poizner has had in the private sector and believe his commitment to public service is sincere. But I have concerns about whether he truly adheres to the conservative principles of our party.

In 2000, when I first ran on the national ticket with President George W. Bush, Mr. Poizner endorsed Vice President Al Gore. With the election hanging in the balance, he donated $10,000 to the Gore-Lieberman Recount Committee in Florida. In 2004, during the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, Mr. Poizner, who was then a candidate for the state Assembly, opposed the tax cuts that were the centerpiece of our economic recovery plan.

He also broke ranks with our party on national security and the “war on terror.” Mr. Poizner opposed the war in Iraq. To amplify his opposition to the national security policies of the Bush administration, he invited Richard Clarke to campaign for him in California. …

While I have doubts about the authenticity of the conservative voice that Mr. Poizner now speaks in, there is no disputing that Meg Whitman is the Republican the Democrats fear the most in this election. The unions and the Democratic donors invested in Attorney General Jerry Brown’s success have already started to run misleading ads attacking Meg Whitman. This is a clear admission on their part that Meg is the toughest Republican candidate for governor. The Democrats know that Meg can beat them in November, and, more importantly, they know she will put an end to the failed status quo in Sacramento as governor.

These aren’t bad reasons for Cheney to mistrust Poizner.  Poizner has explained his move from liberal to conservative, but it’s still legitimate to debate a candidate’s sincerity in those kind of declarations.  Poizner’s past endorsements and positions are fair game.  It’s also worth asking why anyone in California politics would think Poizner could gain by moving from liberal to conservative; even with the Tea Parties, the state’s electorate rewards liberals more than conservatives, especially in state-wide elections.

But why did Cheney make this announcement now?  Whitman just blew a 50-point lead in the polling.  This endorsement would have done more good a month or two ago, when Whitman’s polling began to slide.  The issues that creates Cheney’s doubts have existed for years.  Why did he wait so long to get involved?  It makes this look like a desperation rescue, which is hardly what Whitman needs at the moment.  It also skips over issues of authenticity that conservatives have with Whitman, as well as her ability to win an election at all, let alone in November.

I respect Cheney’s view on conservativism, and his endorsement should give Whitman some lift.  But if she was the candidate Cheney claims, she wouldn’t have needed it.

Update: Ugh.  Whitman’s running for Governor, of course, not the Senate, as is Poizner.  Thanks to commenter Disturb the Universe for slapping me awake this morning.

Update II: Steve Poizner’s campaign rebutted Dick Cheney’s claim today in a note to Hot Air:

While [we] greatly respect Vice President Cheney, there are several inaccurate comments in his posts, including:

1)      Steve Poizner is the only Republican Gubernatorial candidate who voted for President Bush in 2000 and worked for the Bush Administration as the director of Critical Infrastructure Protection in the National Security Council as a White House fellow. Steve Poizner never endorsed Al Gore. (READ MORE) In fact, Meg Whitman endorsed Sen. Barbara Boxer and AL Gore (as proven by several newspaper reports).

2)      Steve was in favor of the Bush tax cuts and he supported the invasion of Iraq.  The Whitman campaign repeatedly points to one inaccurate editorial in the That Palo Alto Daily News published when Steve was running for State Assembly. Steve does think there were mistakes in Iraq implantation, such as not using more troops to control the borders early on.  [We] don’t believe there was ever a correction written, but during that entire campaign this is the only report of either of these positions – this paper just got it wrong.

Whitman ENDORSED Al Gore For President In 2000:

In September Of 2000, Whitman Was Listed As A Supporter Of Vice President Gore’s Presidential Campaign. “Gore supporters already include such chief executives as Eric Schmidt of Novell, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer and Meg Whitman of eBay.” (Andrew J. Glass, “Candidates Woo High-Tech World With Similar Stands,” Cox News Service, 9/14/00)

Fellow San Jose CEO Bill Coleman Listed Whitman As A Supporter Of Vice President Gore. “‘The vast majority of technology executives are in the Bush camp. There are certain people active on the other side: [Novell CEO] Eric Schmidt, [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs, and [eBay CEO] Meg Whitman. But I can’t think of any other major CEOs,’ [BEA Software CEO Bill] Coleman says.” (Jennifer Jones and Bob Trott, “The Politics Of Technology,” InfoWorld, 8/28/00)

The articles can be viewed here.