Debra J. Saunders

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell announced Thursday that he is dropping out of the California GOP gubernatorial primary and instead will run against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Last year, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom bowed out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary, leaving former governor and current Attorney General Jerry Brown as the only Democrat in the race -- and he has yet to announce that he is running.

Come to think of it, former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi also dropped out of the Democratic gubernatorial primary to run for (and win) Rep. Ellen Tauscher's vacated seat. The governor's race is starting to look like an Agatha Christie story, where all the characters get bumped off one by one. Call it: "And Then There Were None."

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Campbell knows that some supporters are disappointed that he won't remain in the governor's race. Some had this fantasy that he would best the two moneybags in the race, much as Gray Davis beat Democrat richies Al Checchi and Jane Harman in 1998.

Sorry, Campbell explained, he was "not within hailing distance" of winning because he raised only about $1 million last year. By contrast, the two gazillionaires each tossed $19 million into their campaign coffers as if it were tip money.

As Democratic political guru Darry Sragow noted, people forget "in the telling of the story, Gray did have enough money to make his presence felt." Campbell wasn't in Davis' fundraising league.

There is also a nostalgia element to the switch. In 1992, Campbell lost the GOP primary to Bruce Herschensohn, who then lost the general election to Boxer. According to conventional lore, if the more moderate Campbell had won the primary, Boxer never would have won her Senate seat.

The lore could be wrong. Campbell was such a non-factor when he challenged Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2000 -- she trounced him 56 percent to 37 percent -- that even political people tend to forget his walk-on role in that race.

What does Campbell's switch mean for voters? Democrats remain stuck with Jerry Brown. Sragow claims that voters want "comfort food" candidates and Brown is experienced. Others see the return of the decades-ago hippie governor as a bad LSD flashback.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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