Mike Murphy: ‘Blue riptide’ pulled Meg Whitman under amid GOP wave

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Mike Murphy, chief strategist to Meg Whitman, blamed public-employee unions and California’s status as ‘a very blue state’ for the GOP gubernatorial candidate’s loss to Democrat Jerry Brown on Tuesday, even as she spent a national record $142 million of her own money trying to beat him.

Voters rebuffed Whitman and the entire GOP ticket in California, as the party lost every statewide race -- with one, for attorney general, still too close to call -- while Republicans swept into power across the nation.

‘We got beat. And, you know, I ran the campaign. I take responsibility for it,’ Murphy said Sunday on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘It’s a very blue state, and it’s getting bluer. As the red, you know, wave, kind of went one way, there was a bit of blue riptide coming the other way.’

Whitman was able to win GOP and independent votes, he said, but not Democrats, and ‘in California, if you don’t win a lot of Democrats, you don’t win.’


Murphy, who was paid $90,000 a month by Whitman for his strategic advice, had avoided questions about the race since Tuesday’s defeat. The voters, he said Sunday, rejected ‘CEO candidates who were doing kind of a tough-medicine message.’

Whitman and former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, the Republican challenger to Sen. Barbara Boxer, lost by wide margins.

Murphy also blamed spending by the state’s influential public-employee unions, in part, for the loss, saying they ‘run California politics.’ Unions spent heavily on TV ads attacking Whitman during the summer months as Brown hoarded his limited treasury.

‘They paid for Jerry Brown’s campaign,’ he said.

Murphy was previously the mastermind behind Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s failed 2005 special election –- in which voters rejected every measure on the ballot –- after unions spent millions of dollars against him.

‘The big unions in the last couple of years have spent $300 million on politics,’ Murphy said. ‘So, you either can’t raise enough money to compete, and they swamp you ... or you spend your own money, but if you’re a self-funder, the press wants to make that money the issue.’

Related: Experience counts, money doesn’t

-- Shane Goldmacher

Photo: Meg Whitman concedes the governor’s race to Democrat Jerry Brown. Chris Carlson / Associated Press