But it has yet to be truly challenged, say most of the reporters I spoke to. “It’s a gamble when you have a strategy like this,” says Myers. “Right now it’s working for him because he only has one thing he’s doing and that’s the state budget problems. It’s hard to know how that’s going to work when multiple things are happening at multiple times.” Halper helps paint such a situation: “Frankly, if we have a major earthquake at the same time as we’re trying to have a special election to get tax increases extended, and then something else happens, like a fire, any administration is going to be hard-pressed to handle it, even the last one with its press operation of seventeen. I don’t see how these three people get all the information coordinated and out.”
Deputy Press Secretary Elizabeth Ashford says her team is already handling a tough news cycle spinning with big-ticket events. “I think the press sees our world through the lens of what they’re writing about on any given day,” she says. The budget crisis drags on and draws focus, true, but the tsunami that followed this month’s earthquake in Japan did more than $40 million worth of damage to the California coastline, and the administration has been sending resources to Japan as well as coordinating diplomatic outreach. Plus, adds Ashford, there is the busywork that comes with any new administration—one of the most labor-intensive and complicated phases of any governorship.
When I ask Duran about the prospect of a more tumultuous news cycle, he is more cavalier than his deputy. In fact, he sounds a little like his boss. “We can do anything,” he says. And he’s happy to act like the boss too: one of Duran’s first moves was to implement cuts of his own, cancelling a subscription to a morning news clips service that had cost the office over $200,000 a year. “Whatever the governor has to deal with is what we have to deal with.”
Surely though he’d call in some extra hands help in the office should multiple stories explode? “No,” he says, echoing again like the folksy new throwback governor. “I would bring a blanket.”