Debra J. Saunders

Former eBay chief Meg Whitman is preparing to run for governor in 2010. Considering that California is so broke that next month it may have to issue IOUs instead of checks, I cannot imagine why anyone would want the job. And considering that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger started out as a political outsider who promised to parachute into Sacramento to clean up the mess -- only to allow it to grow messier -- I wonder if voters will be anxious to pick another parachute-in Republican for governor.

Not that the alternatives are all that appetizing. If Whitman may seem too new, some Democrats expected to jump into the race have been running for governor longer than many readers have been voting in California. Attorney General Jerry Brown ran and won the governorship in 1974 and 1978. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who has already announced his candidacy, ran and lost in 1982 and 1994. He announced he would run in the recall race, then didn't, but then ran for lieutenant governor, or governor in waiting, in 2006.

I wonder if Democrats are anxious to nominate Your Father's Oldsmobile when there are newer models -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or EssEff Mayor Gavin Newsom -- that have been road-tested, without having rusted in the driveway.

"We all hope that Gavin Newsom wins the nomination so the Republicans get a chance," GOP analyst Allan Hoffenblum noted.

So far, it looks as if Whitman will compete for the GOP nomination with Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell. It is a sign of a more moderate GOP that all three support abortion rights.

"It would be nice if one of them would look at running against Sen. Barbara Boxer," Hoffenblum noted. Because Campbell has run for the Senate twice and lost, it would make more sense if Whitman or Poizner (and their personal fortunes) ran for the Senate rather than compete for the governor's seat.

Like Whitman, Poizner is a Silicon Valley exec whose fortune topped the $1 billion mark before he acknowledged an itch for politics. Unlike Whitman, Poizner did not jump into politics by running for the top spot. In 2004, he ran for the Assembly and lost. In 2006, he ran for insurance commissioner and won, and he has done an impressive job in that office, as well as wooing the grassroots supporters.

If the race were decided by expertise on the state budget, Campbell, who served as Schwarzenegger's finance director from 2004 to 2005, would win hands down. It's hard to imagine Campbell raising the money to compete with two gazillionaires, but to know him is to wish him luck in finding a way.

Debra J. Saunders

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