Carol Platt Liebau

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

As more votes are counted, Villaraigosa is starting to pull away. Many a cautionary tale can be distilled from what appears to be Hahn's impending defeat -- don't forget your base, don't neglect to tout your accomplishments, etc. etc.

For my part, I don't believe that Villaraigosa has won because of his race (at least I hope not -- voting FOR someone simply on account of ethnicity isn't much better than voting AGAINST him solely because of it). And he didn't win simply because of Hahn's mistakes.

In the absence of any meaningful policy differences between the two candidates, Villaraigosa won because he projected more passion for the job -- and voters respond to that. As Hugh Hewitt noted earlier, he gives the impression that "if a 'very bad thing' happened in Los Angeles like it did in New York, he’d walk towards the scene, like Rudy did on 9/11." That counts for a lot.

One of the reasons that Bill Clinton was able to hold onto his job was that he convinced the American people that he went to bed thinking about how to improve their lives, and woke up the next morning concentrating on the same thing. As between the two mayoral candidates, Villaraigosa is far better than Hahn at being able to communicate that kind of focus.

What's Villaraigosa really like? It's hard to know. It was striking that, in the debate held when he enjoyed an 18-point polling advantage, Villaraigosa nonetheless chose to go on the attack. Conventional wisdom would have dictated that someone with such a massive lead refrain from the kind of verbal slashing that Villaraigosa seemed to engage in with a fair degree of relish.

Then again, maybe he was simply trying to avoid repeating his perceived mistakes of 2001 -- a reflection of his passion for winning the job. At this point, it looks like we'll see if he actually performs with the same degree of competence and enthusiasm he displayed for obtaining it.


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