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Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2002 / 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham
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Consumer Reports

California dreaming, cont'd | There's an old saying in politics that you can't beat something with nothing. Unfortunately, in California's governor's race, the campaign of Republican challenger Bill Simon has been marked by a lot of nothing, unless you count missteps and miscalculations.

The most recent Simon embarrassment involved his claim that a photo of incumbent governor Gray Davis receiving a political contribution was taken at Davis' government office (which would have been illegal). Simon's claim turned out to be inaccurate, and the photo flap made him look desperate.

There have been many instances of Simon mishandling issues and squandering opportunities during the past year, but more than anything he simply lacks the personal charisma and passion on the stump needed to make Californians sit up and listen.

Even with Simon lagging far behind Davis in the most recent polls, a new on-line survey by the left-wing San Francisco Chronicle speaks volumes. The question was "What's the most important aspect of Gov. Davis's first term in office?" The answers were: Enacted education reforms, 1%; Enacted tough gun control laws, 10%; Raised campaign cash, 6%; and…drum roll please…Mishandled the energy crisis, a whopping 72%. Early this year I predicted, with great (and foolish) optimism, that considering Davis' disastrous record of managing California's fiscal house, Simon couldn't lose.

Yet absent something dramatic, Davis will easily win re-election. But the lesson here isn't the one that so-called moderate Republicans are crowing about-that Simon will lose because he's "too conservative." "Two contentious issues-abortion and gun control-have so far played little role in the race," according to The Los Angeles Times.

Simon will lose not because of his views but because he ran such a lackluster race. With Davis spending tens of millions of dollars on commercials slamming Simon's past business dealings, Simon needed to hit back hard, fast, and convincingly. He didn't, and California Republicans are frustrated beyond words. In a recent Los Angeles Times poll, more than half, 51% of registered voters, believe that the state is heading in the wrong direction, up from 40% in February.

That should be terrible news for the Davis campaign, yet Simon never tapped into the voter dissatisfaction out there.

If Dick Riordan, the moderate/liberal Republican who lost to Simon in the primary, had run as bad a campaign as Simon did, he would be ten points behind too. Conservatives can win statewide in California, but not conservatives who are too timid to make the Republican case for winning and too hesitant to hammer the hypocrisy and poor track record of their liberal opponents.

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JWR contributor Laura Ingraham is the host of a radio show syndicated nationally by Westwood One Radio Network. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Laura Ingraham