Debra J. Saunders

Suffice it to say that Brown is an opposition researcher's dream. As Oakland mayor, he delayed the retrofit of the Bay Bridge, overused eminent domain to evict good businesses and hired City Administrator Deborah Edgerly, who, according to a city audit, had a penchant for "inappropriately hiring close relatives in lieu of well-qualified individuals."

Public employee unions gave Brown millions last year. What do they expect in return? Republicans have a strong candidate in GOP front-runner, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Given the electorate's clear exasperation with the big-spending Legislature and rejection of last year's tax-raising ballot measures, voters may well be looking for a no-nonsense executive to trim -- no, hack at -- the state budget, with its $20.7 billion shortfall. And, in a state desperate for good jobs, she knows what the private sector needs.

But there's also the Arnold Factor, which could undercut that edge: California voters may be wary of electing another Republican political novice who makes big promises to cut government spending.

As state insurance commissioner, rival Steve Poizner does have Sacramento experience. GOP strategist Allan Hoffenblum noted, "I always prefer two-candidate races" to threesomes. A two-way race helps Poizner's strategy to run as "the real conservative" in the race.

Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen seized the moment to paint "Tom and Steve" as virtual twins, who talk to reporters, answer tough questions and (unlike Whitman to date) "show up for debates." But the last PPIC poll showed Poizner, despite his stint as insurance commish, with 8 percent of the primary vote. If his poll numbers don't pick up, he'll be debating himself.

The other Republican thrilled with Campbell's jump into the Senate race is Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, who also had been a poor kid in a GOP primary overflowing with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina's money. Campbell believes he can fare better in the Senate race, as his campaign consultant conducted a poll -- an inside job, and hence suspect -- showing Campbell leading the field at 31 points to Fiorina at 15 and DeVore at 12.

Both Sragow and Hoffenblum see the move as good for Campbell. Hoffenblum, however, worries "that the two Silicon Valley candidates could split the vote and give it to" the perhaps too-conservative DeVore.

Fiorina has to be frosted. She laid the groundwork early. She lined up establishment support in Washington. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was treating her as if she had won the nomination. And here comes Campbell late to the party with former Secretary of State George Shultz and his endorsement on his arm. Fiorina spokesman Julie Soderlund dismissed Campbell's switcheroo as testament to his "quixotic personal ambition and the false premise that he will be acceptable to ... primary voters."

When Campbell lost to DiFi, he raised a measly $4 mil to her $10 mil. He could not raise money from the more conservative GOP base.

There's "a huge difference this time," Campbell told me. Feinstein "was assumed to be unbeatable." In 2010, with voter discontent bubbling even in blue Massachusetts, this could be a bad year for Boxer.


Debra J. Saunders


 
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