Gavin, Antonio and Denver
When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. And I'm wrong. There was no embrace this morning between rival mayors Gavin Newsom of San Francisco and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, no jabs at the press for wanting to make a united Democratic front into a potential gubernatorial smackdown. Newsom spoke to California Democrats at the convention in Denver, then walked off the podium and down the hall with a trail of paparazzi, while Villaraigosa marched past. The two did not even look at each other.
Newsom not only delivered the speech of a man running for governor, he killed. He hit his campaign talking points or, at least, those things that ought to be his campaign talking points: San Francisco's universal healthcare program, universal preschool, universal this and universal that. Environment. Living wage. Same-sex marriage -- not by taking credit for launching the movement, but by calling on California Democrats to defeat Proposition 8, the gay-marriage ban.
He repeated these words often, and he sold them: "If we can do it in San Francisco, let me promise you, we can do it in the state of California." Or: "I promise you. We have evidence. This is not an assertion, this is not another political speech. I will show you how it's done. We have done it in San Francisco. It can be done anywhere."
And get a load of this zinger:
"I appreciate some people wanting to take over school districts; I certainly respect the desire for change, but we decided to do it differently. We decided to build a partnership with our public schools." Was he talking about anyone in particular?
Villaraigosa could have answered that his partnership for schools gets under way next week, or that he has environmental programs of his own. But his was not a gubernatorial campaign speech. He talked about what Democrats have been talking about all week -- if they are going to get what they want, they have to elect Barack Obama.
But these delegates were starting to tire of hearing that from people other than Obama himself.
"I wanted to come and say a few words to you," Villaraigosa told California Democrats, "not to talk about anything I'm doing in Los Angeles, but to speak to you about what we all need to do throughout the state, throughout our city and throughout the nation."
I have some sympathy for Villaraigosa. Earlier this week (and this summer), reporters and others got on his case for spending so much time out of state campaigning for Hillary Clinton, then for supposedly not doing enough to get Clinton voters to back Obama. And now, when that's exactly what he's talking about in Denver, I'm saying he didn't equal Gavin Newsom in presenting himself as a potential governor. He can't win for losing. He's not even a candidate for governor (Newsom has opened an exploratory campaign, Villaraigosa deflects questions about his intentions).
Still, Newsom sure sounded inspiring in comparison, and his list of solid accomplishments from his first term helps listeners ask themselves what Villaraigosa has to show for himself. It also diverts attention from the fact that San Francisco is a fabulously wealthy boutique of a city, with a combined city-county government that makes it easier to turn talk into action.
Am I giving Newsom too much credit? Am I going too easy on Villaraigosa? Listen for yourself: