George Will

SAN FRANCISCO -- Political speculation swirls. Meg Whitman, billionaire former eBay CEO and leading candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in California, supposedly prefers not to run in tandem with Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who is seeking the Republican Senate nomination to run against the three-term Democrat, Barbara Boxer.

Fiorina, who advised John McCain's presidential campaign, was mentioned as his possible running mate. Whitman supposedly thinks two female former tech tycoons on the ticket would be one too many. Furthermore, Whitman supposedly harbors national ambitions, perhaps as 2012 vice presidential running mate with Mitt Romney, her business mentor and current supporter. If in 2012 Gov. Whitman is wallowing in this state's multiplying disasters, she might not want Fiorina in Washington surrounded by television cameras and unencumbered by executive responsibilities.

So Whitman supposedly persuaded a rival for the gubernatorial nomination -- Tom Campbell, a former congressman of large talents but slender means -- to switch to the Senate race, leaving her opposed only by Steve Poizner, another rich refugee from Silicon Valley. This may have been a bit too clever because Poizner can now make this a binary choice: Who is most conservative?

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Campbell leads Fiorina 30 to 25 in the Field Poll, with 39 percent undecided. A third candidate, Chuck DeVore, a state assemblyman from Southern California (Orange County), had just 6 percent, but might be the nominee.

California's electorate is about 45 percent Democratic, 31 percent Republican, 20 percent "decline to state" and about 5 percent affiliated with minor parties. The June primary will be open to Republicans and "decline to states," but probably about 15 percent of those unaffiliated voters who will participate in the primary will request Republican ballots. So, incandescent conservatives among California's 5.2 million Republicans are apt to determine the Senate nominee. The most conservative candidate is DeVore, 47, an aerospace executive and lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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