One of the hardest decisions Gov. Jerry Brown's advisers made in last year's gubernatorial race was to lay low during the summer, saving limited resources by staying off the air until after Labor Day.
Brown adviser Steve Glazer said at a Berkeley conference analyzing the campaign that one of Whitman's first ads, "40 years of failure," was a particularly "well-produced and well-researched" spot. He said "one of the toughest choices" Brown made was not responding to it.
Joe Trippi, who coordinated Brown's media effort, said consultants made several ads that never aired, setting up four or five potential air dates throughout the summer before canceling them.
The effect was beneficial. Trippi said Whitman erred by advertising continuously, becoming the "old, tired thing."
Whitman consultants declined to participate in the conference, attended by consultants, academics and reporters from across the state. Sharing the stage with Brown's advisers were three Republicans, including former Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte.
Whitman over-saturated the market, he said.
"By Labor Day, Jerry Brown, who was governor when I was in high school, was the fresh new face," he said.
Furthermore, Brown campaign polling showed Whitman ads backfiring, increasing her negative ratings more than they raised Brown's. Glazer called that phenomenon "amazing to us to see."
Roger Salazar of the independent expenditure committee California Working Families, which backed Brown, said his group tested messages in focus groups about Whitman. It found criticism of the former eBay CEO's business record did not play well, he said, but that attacking her trustworthiness did.
Brown and his allies attacked Whitman for her poor voting record and for airing ads judged by independent observers to be misleading.
Duf Sundheim, former chairman of the California Republican Party, said Whitman's consultants entered the race concerned it would become about character.
"They felt that they were vulnerable on that," he said.
Nor did Whitman's image improve, said former Assembly Republican leader Robert Naylor. He said she suffered from a "cumulative thing of ducking the press, not being spontaneous."
In private gatherings, Naylor said, Whitman was "excellent on her feet," but it "didn't come out in the campaign."
"It was quite remarkable," he said.
Brown's advisers maintained they were not involved in Whitman's housekeeper controversy. Sundheim said he knew as many as 10 days before the story broke that a union was "shopping it" around.
The panel conversation, though thorough, revealed little that had not previously been reported about the campaign.
Nor were Brown's advisers in a secret-telling mood.
Asked to identify the person in Brown's campaign recorded calling Whitman a "whore," Glazer said, "What's the question, again?"
Glazer said, as he has before, "We could not make out, from our point of view, who it was."