Why not win?

Debra J. Saunders

5/23/2003 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders

Here's my question for the political team at the White House:

How many elections do California Republicans have to lose because the White House is afraid that certain candidates and issues will cost the GOP wins elsewhere in the country or in the future?

As Chuck Todd reported in the National Journal, "Republicans this side of the White House lawn" are opposed to efforts by Californians to push former Gov. Pete Wilson to run against Sen. Barbara Boxer.

It doesn't matter that Wilson has won four statewide runs for office. Or that Republicans lost bids for every statewide office in November. The Bushies fear that Wilson will alienate Latino voters.

Forget Wilson for a second: It's the attitude that really bites.

The Bushies are free to write off California as impossible to win in 2004 -- if they choose to ignore the Field poll that found 61 percent of California voters approve of Bush's job performance.

But it's not their place to discourage the one Republican most likely to win in California.

Especially when their objection is that Wilson supported a 1994 initiative -- Proposition 187, which sought to deny benefits to illegal immigrants -- that 59 percent of state voters supported.

Note to Karl Rove: Popularity wins elections.

A few words about Prop. 187: It's the bogeyman tale GOP strategists tell their clients to keep them up at night. Once upon a time, Wilson's support for Prop. 187 chased Latinos away from the GOP because he made the GOP look racist.

Nonsense. Prop. 187 passed not because Californians were anti-immigrant, but because they objected to paying for benefits for illegal immigrants. In fact, a Los Angeles Times exit poll found that 23 percent of Latino voters supported Prop. 187.

Latino California Assemblyman Robert Pacheco noted with regret that Democrats have managed to turn Prop. 187 into a "wedge" against Republicans.

Fair enough, but I doubt that Boxer wants to remind Californians that Wilson backed the same measure that a majority of them backed -- only to see it overturned by the courts. Not when California has suffered a $38 billion budget shortfall and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich complained recently that the county has becoming "an HMO for illegal immigrants."

Word is that the White House won't take sides in the primary. It seems that the Bushies learned their lesson with former L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan, whom they coaxed into the governor's race only to watch him lose the primary to the bumbling Bill Simon.

Still, party solons have floated the name of U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, a Latina who worked for seven years in the allegedly racist Wilson administration. Marin announced her resignation this morning. Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif., and Simon have looked at the race. Former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey has announced. No disrespect is intended, but these folks are learning how to crawl, while Wilson has won the marathon four times.

The GOP hasn't won a top California statewide office since Wilson won in 1994. There's no Republican to greet President Bush when he comes off the plane here.

When Bush came to Santa Clara this month, he had to reach into the Central Valley to find a Republican he could even name, Rep. Richard Pombo.

Even if President Bush doesn't try to win California, he'll be coming to the state to raise money. Do White House biggies really want to risk Bush running for re-election with his arm draped around another bumbler?