OFF THE GRID

What Rich Person Should You Vote For?

Aug 12, 10 | 7:59 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Who would you choose if you had to choose? Meg Whitman or Linda McMahon? The white-shoe MBA or the vulgarian and rapscallion entrepreneur?

The upcoming election may establish the standards for rich people seeking political office. There is a slew of different sort of richies running. But in essence they break down to the self-made and the handsomely paid.

I’m betting the self-made, no matter how vulgarian and rapscallion, have a shot—there is some deep, sentimental, even amused affection for these gamblers and rogues. Michael Bloomberg is the model and, all in all, it hasn’t worked out so badly.

Now, of course, Linda McMahon makes Bloomberg look nearly aristocratic. But when Bloomberg ran, before politics made him respectable, he was a pirate and, too, a foul-mouthed megalomaniac. True, not as vulgar as Mrs. McMahon. It is hard to get that crass and low-down. That’s the issue in Connecticut: Who’d vote for, of all things, a wrestling impresario?

On the other hand, if you want stubbornness, and work ethic, and the ability to make the unlikely happen, and luck (and what’s more important than luck?), you don’t have to look much farther than someone who has started an improbable business and made it pay.

That’s not Meg Whitman. Nor is it any of the impressive number of people who have been hired on to businesses in growth mode in the age of the growth mode and made a few hundred million or more. Whitman herself is a Harvard MBA who used to have a middle management job at Disney who took the job as CEO of eBay because her career in Hollywood wasn’t going well enough. She represents a fluke of circumstances rather than, like Mrs. McMahon or the mayor of New York, an act of will. She’s a professional manager who got rich off of cheap stock options that are now funding her run for office, rather than rich off of imagining something and making it happen.

It’s peculiar that she would even think she has a claim on the American imagination. And I don’t think she does.

Ned Lamont was just defeated in Connecticut in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. He got some traction (though not enough) when he ran as an anti-war candidate against the revolting Joe Lieberman. He lost that traction when he chose to run, this time around, as a successful financier. He made the mistake of looking at Michael Bloomberg and thinking that’s what people want, managerial competence. When, in fact, the Bloomberg advantage was about the marvel of having creating something from nothing—of having actually, well, worked. His story is real.

Whitman and Lamont’s stories are largely fake. They didn’t make anything. Mrs. McMahon has, no matter how preposterous (in a sense the more preposterous the better).

Anyway, the joke in California is that all Jerry Brown has to do to win is show up. Meg Whitman has spent a large fortune and is still running behind. Brown has hardly spent anything at all (and doesn’t seem to be campaigning all that hard) and is still ahead.

We live in a nation of rich pipsqueaks who now want to be elected to office. They’re deluded.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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