Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Campbell Makes It Official: Winners & Losers

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And now it’s official: Tom Campbell has left the Republican gubernatorial primary and thrown his hat into the race to face Barbara Boxer. 

Here’s a video Team Campbell sent to supporters earlier this morning. 

It’s pretty clear that Campbell, a former House member from the San Jose area twice rated the most frugal man in Congress by the National Taxpayers’ Union Foundation, wants to make “spendthrift” the buzzword in this contest. Or so he told his fan base: 

“I initially made the decision to run for Governor because I believe that my level of record of public service (especially on the state budget), and my willingness to present specific, pragmatic solutions to our most pressing problems would enable me to help chart a better course for our state.” 

“Every day brings more evidence of the need for fiscal restraint in Washington, and the huge danger to our country from printing money. Truly, in my lifetime, I have never seen the growth of federal government spending more out of control. The consequences will be both inflation in the very near future, affecting us all, but retirees especially, and a tremendous burden on the next generation that will have to pay back what has been borrowed. The federal deficit has more than tripled in a single year. That’s suicidal for our country.” 

And, finally, this dig at Dame Barbara. 

“You won’t have to wonder what I’ll be like when I get to Congress. I’ve been in Congress. So has Senator Boxer. One of us spent money your kids haven’t earned yet. One of us did not.” 

We won’t know the true effect of Campbell’s shift until we see some actual poll numbers. In the meantime, I’d like a suggest a few winners and losers. 

Winner: Carly Fiorina’s Fundraisers. With a second perceived Silicon Valley moderate in the race (Fiorina doesn’t care for the label, but the media continue to affix it to her), the former HP CEO will need serious money in a hurry to mount the kind of media campaign that will gain her separation from her two more cash-strapped opponents. What better news for fundraisers, who get a cut of the $$ they bring into a campaign? 

Loser: Tom Campbell’s Sterling Reputation. To know Tom Campbell is to appreciate one of the true honest gentlemen in politics. He always says what he means, and means what he says. While respecting Campbell’s desire to serve California, there’s something about the switch that’s just a little . . . well, political. If excessive government spending is what ails us, why not run instead for State Controller, where Campbell could have brough real fiscal change to Sacramento? 

Winner: Steve Poizner’s Strategy. Going negative against an opponent is a risky proposition when there’s a third candidate in the race. Voters turned off by negative back-and-forths between two rivals can easily opt for the one non-mudslinger. It’s what got Gray Davis through the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1998. Without Campbell lurking around as a potential beneficiary in a Republican pie-fight, the choice should be easier for Team Poizner to begin the attack on GOP frontrunner Meg Whitman. 

Loser: Smug Pundits.  Any genius can predict the winner in a two-person race. It’s called flipping a coin. A three-candidate race is a different animal. Do Campbell and Fiorina split centrist votes? Or does Campbell cut into Chuck DeVore’s base of tea-bagging anti-stimulus conservatives and libertarians? Let’s wait until we have some poll numbers to crunch — tat, and how the candidates interact at their debates.  

The Flying Dutchman

Winner: 

Barbara Boxer.  Duh. She’s sitting on a $6 million war chest and, theoretically at least, won’t have to spend a dime of it trying to take on her GOP rivals (as Gray Davis did in 2002, targeting Richard Riordan) if they’re caught up in an intramural squabble. It’s the Napoloeonic theory of primaries: don’t engage on the other side if the other side is in the process of destroying itself. Boxer is the Flying Dutchman of California politics — a Washington-based ghost ship that returns to California every six years. Yet, somehow, it’s always a course to victory. 

Loser: Fixing California’s Budget. It’s easy to imagine a Governor Campbell going to the mattresses to bring some common-sense reform to how the state spends its money — even it cost him a second term on office. That likely won’t happen now. 

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Written by Bill Whalen

January 14, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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