In California, the wave crashed, while it sloshed a little in 2014 (state legislative slates benefited).
What happened in 2010, that two well-moneyed statewide contenders failed to budge California from blue to purple?
Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman saturated the airwaves for months, first demonizing Steve Poizner, then trying to slam Jerry Brown as an uber liberal who made Bill Clinton look like a Republican. The best commercial of 2010? Whitman replaying the 1992 Democratic primary debate between Clinton and Brown, with Clinton slamming Brown's attempt to undo then reverse Prop 13.
But the bigger failure in 2010 California politics was US Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. In a three way Republican primary, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore harnessed the Tea Party vote, former Congressman Tom Campbell took in centrist, moderate voters (and was the most likely to beat Boxer based on ideology and connections). Then there was Fiorina. She won the primary, and looked like a strongest candidate to take down Barbara Boxer
I liked Carly. She had worked with Republican Presidential candidate John McCain during the 2008 general election. She was a smart and telegenic business woman,the ideal candidate to coalesce conservatives and business interests, while Campbell and DeVore only appealed to one of those factions.
Yet with all the money, and all the connections, Carly was not ready for prime time. She spent most of her campaign talking about jobs, and the one statewide commercial she put together featured a few minorities talking about the economy, and then Carly. Not effective. Independent Expenditures did a better job hammering Barbara Boxer, and the Republican candidate needed to do more of the same.
On the jobs front, Carly was the female Romney. As the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, she had done more harm than good. She took a huge severance following her dismissal from the company, too. Corporate autopsy experts claimed that Carly had become arrogant and out-of-touch, unwilling to listen to anyone. Those qualities turn of voters, no matter Republican, Democrat or anything in between.
She also led the company during its major transition from America to overseas, and thousands of jobs with it. Not a compelling message. Boxer hammered Fiorina on this disturbing part of her resume, which was supposed to be her strongest asset.
Fiorina lost by ten points, even when Real Clear Politics had listed her as one point down weeks before the election. Was her loss all her fault? Of course not. Republicans are now learning the necessity of playing the background as well as the foreground. The California Republican Party in general was in general disarray, too. No strong outreach, not long-term planning and lots of money will not an election win.
|Carly for US Senate sign, symbolic of her campaign:|
Thin on details, resources, and viability
In 2016 California Republicans may have a chance of winning Boxer's US Senate seat, now an increasing possibility, since Boxer will likely announce her retirement. She has little money in her campaign warchest, and Washington insiders as well as her inner circle are affirming this possibility.
Following 2014, California Republicans have achieved strong local victories. They stopped the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento, and they hold the majority of city council seats in the state. Now the party needs a quality candidate at the top of the ticket.
Carly for US Senate? She was a bad candidate in 2010, and according to Debra Saunders' latest column, she is still bad, with outstanding debts to campaign managers. She has millions in the bank, but she won't pay back those who had tried to help her? The arrogance of the former HP CEO reigns supreme.
California Republicans need to face the facts: Carly sucked, but not because she was pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, i.e. because she was conservative. She was ill-trained, poorly-vetted, unprepared, with unforced errors in her background which should have forced her out of the running before the primary.
Which Republican could launch a statewide campaign in 2016 in one of the most expensive media markets in the country? Congressman Darrell Issa certainly could, but he is polarizing, and aside from his outstanding chairmanship on the House Oversight Committee, he does not stand out. There is Steve Poizner, but he lost the 2010 Gov. primary to another loser. Because there are no statewide Republicans in office, the bench is not very deep. Meg Whitman? See Poizner.
If we look away from statewide officials, and put aside Congressional representatives, there are some bright spots, celebrity candidates perhaps, who could launch a bid.
|Kevin Faulconer, Mayor of San Diego|
Republican mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer could start an exploratory committee. He just won a Democratic city following the uproarious disgrace of Filthy Bob Filner (himself a former Congressman). He has strong fiscal credentials, but he is pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage: a big problem for conservatives. He has the backing of statewide, Establishment leaders, and he is strongly opposed to (and by) the public sector unions. A 50% candidate to staunch conservatives, he does have media, money, and messaging to take his San Diego victory to the entire state. Incidentally, he would be following the legacy another Republican mayor of San Diego went from city to US Senate: Pete Wilson.
Another public official, whom many have prompted to run for national preeminence, could go for the California US Senate seat, a name whom I had not considered, precisely because she has not played an overt role in recent California or national politics:
She is a popular figure, and influential. In the 2014 primary, she released a key endorsement for Kashkari. With strong foreign policy credentials (she is also socially liberal, regarding abortion), plus her connections with expanding education opportunities for all children, Rice could command respect, support, and even financing from national interests as well as state counterparts.
As an African-American, Republicans can play the identity politics game with greater effect, especially if Attorney General Kamala Harris decides to run for US Senate, too.
Rice has enough government experience, but has worked in the private sector extensively, including Provost of Stanford University (conservative, free-market campus). National pundits suggested that she should become the NFL Commissioner at one time.
Why not Condi for US Senate in 2016? Her campaign would be a touch-down of the California Republican Party, firing up the base while also engaging the majority of California voters, both moderate and minority.