Carol Platt Liebau
The LA Times is reporting that former Congressman Tom Campbell may be leaving the race for governor and throwing his hat into the senatorial ring, against Barbara Boxer.

Over at the Campaign Spot, Jim Geraghty -- whose work I admire unreservedly (and don't forget to sign up for his Mornng Jolt!) -- wonders why a guy who's not performing too well in the gubernatorial race would switch over to the US Senate.

Here's my thought (note: I've worked for Campbell in the past when he ran against Senator Feinstein, but this doesn't reflect anything but my own take):

In the primary for the governor's race, Campbell faces a well-financed, well-known extremely rich moderate woman (Meg Whitman) and a well-financed, extremely rich more conservative man who already is the highest-ranking Republican in the state (Steve Poizner).  There's nothing for Campbell -- quite brilliant, pretty moderate socially but very fiscally conservative and not independently welathy -- to do but hope that the two destroy each other.

In the US Senate race, he's got a pretty unpopular incumbent to run against (in Boxer, vs. an open gubernatorial seat).  His primary opponents are a well-financed, well-known, but not universally beloved woman (Carly Fiorina), whose Republican credentials are somewhat in doubt.  There have also been whispers that she is not entirely ready for prime time, politically speaking. 

The other opponent is a man who is as underfinanced as Campbell would be.  He is as conservative and pro-life as Boxer is liberal and pro-abortion -- which means that, in a race between them, California (having become almost irremediably liberal and incredibly pro-choice) would probably once again hold its collective nose and reelect her, after an election fought about nothing except social issues.

In my view (and given today's reports, presumably in Campbell's), there is space in the Senate race for a rock-hard fiscal conservative with more socially moderate views, like Campbell.  He could beat Boxer, and the election would be fought on a fiscal issues template that would play to his (and the GOP's) advantage, rather than on social issues.  In my judgment, his male primary opponent cannot win-- even in the most Republican year in the world.  And the entire campaign between this opponent and Boxer would be spent on the issue of abortion, because that's all Boxer would want to talk about in hard-core-pro-choice California.

Tom Campbell has more political experience and policy knowledge by miles than Fiorina (and his other likely primary opponent).  He's a candidate of whom California Republicans could be proud -- even if, like me, they don't agree with him on the life issue (even there, of course, he's infinitely more pro-life than Boxer!). 

Although he is not a cookie-cutter Republican, Tom Campbell is likewise not one of the breed of preening "moderates" who sets conservatives' collective teeth on edge (including mine).  He's actually a truly principled guy, who can explain calmly and politely exactly what he believes and why.  As I say -- I've worked for him in the past, and although I don't always agree with Tom, I respect him like crazy.  (He's also one of the most gracious politicians, personally, that I've ever known).

And, again, he's a candidate who could beat Barbara Boxer and who's about as fiscally conservative as they come.

Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.