Suicidal California Elephants?

I don’t think so.

Ken Layne’s latest Fox News column is up. He (an admitted Democrat-turned-temporary-Republican) bemoans the fact that California Republicans seem suicidal because they won’t nominate a Democrat (Riordan) to run against Grayout Davis.

Well, he’s right that California Republicans like to lose, but it’s not because they nominate conservative candidates. It’s because they take occasionally idiotic policy positions (like Prop 187), or nominate candidates who are even more colorless than Gray (e.g., Matt Fong, Pete Wilson).

If running as a liberal/moderate was such a great idea, why did Mike Huffington lose, Ken? Bruce Herschenson was the last interesting candidate that they ran in my memory, and he came close to beating Barbara Boxer. He primarily lost because it was “the year of the (Democratic) woman,” and some last-minute dirty tricks.

Anyway, sorry, Ken, win or lose in November (I actually think he’s got a good shot, given the quality of the opposition, the lingering memories of the energy fiasco, and the changed mood of the country) Bill Simon is almost certainly going to be the Republican nominee. And it’s not because Republicans like to lose. It’s because they like to run Republicans–particularly Republicans who don’t go out of their way to sneer at the base.

[Update at 11:13 AM PST]

Joseph Britt agrees with Ken, and disagrees with me.

California conservatives are much happier complaining about liberals than actually exercising power themselves.

You don’t exercise power as a conservative by electing a Richard Riordan. To a conservative (a category in which I don’t place myself, by the way), Riordan is actually to the left of Davis on many issues. They just don’t see the point.

The GOP primary wouldn’t even have been close if they’d thrown their weight behind Bill Jones, but he wasn’t pure enough or rich enough.

Blame the White House for that. Riordan is their creation. Now they’re desperately making overtures to Simon, since they can read the handwriting. Simon will be a much stronger candidate than Jones, partly for the same reason he’s trouncing Jones–he can bring his own money to the table.

With Rudy’s endorsement, and Bush coming out here to campaign for him, and the upcoming budget battles in Sacramento, in which Davis will be blamed for the lack of funds due to his idiotic energy deals, I think that almost anyone will be able to knock him off this fall.

[Another update at 11:30 AM PST]]

The folks over at Free Republic are masticating Ken’s column and spitting it out. Many are making the same points that I do (though in a less genteel way). But then, I like Ken…

[Yet another update, at 11:46 AM PST]

Hugh Hewitt weighs in as well (on the race–not on Ken’s column)–he’s for Simon as well, and says why:

I decided on Simon after interviewing all three GOP candidates on my radio program last week. He’s upbeat, energized, ready to answer baseless attacks, and he doesn’t condescend to the voter. After the attacks on America, Simon is an almost ideal candidate to deliver the big three: honor, candor, and purpose. Simon will not only run strong in California, he’s a perfect new face for the GOP nationally as well.

The central issue in California in 2002 is the almost breathtaking incompetence of Gray Davis, a career political hack who found himself in the biggest job in the state and froze. On issue after issue Davis has fumbled the ball and called it a touchdown. He believes he can spin himself out of his disastrous handling of the state power shortage and his mismanagement of the state’s budget. “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is not a question for voters, it’s a laugh line. As the Simon campaign reminds people, Davis’ slogan four years ago was “Experience money can’t buy.” Now we know why –there’d be no takers, period.

So Davis will attack, and attack, and attack. Here is where the real Reagan parallel comes in. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter was surrounded by the ruins of his first term in office and confronting an upbeat optimist from the West Coast in Reagan. So Carter attacked, again and again, and tried to persuade America that Reagan was a reckless ideologue. But 1980 was one of those years in which the American voter was unwilling to be spun. Americans were held hostage, and a war had broken out in Afghanistan. It was time for a change, and a big one. Reagan won in a walk.

Sound familiar? If Bill Simon stays upbeat and on message, if he focuses on California’s tottering economy and collapsed schools, and if he conveys the same wide-open embrace of all hard-working Americans, the worst governor in California’s history will also be the first one in a century to lose his first campaign for re-election.

[Yet another update, at 1 PM PST]

Richard Bennett comments:

California’s not the same state it was in the Reagan Era, it’s not even the same state is was the Pete Wilson Era — a lot of the Mexicans that Wilson went loopy over have registered to vote, and they take great pleasure in voting. It’s not the same state it was in 1994 when Reeps won a majority in the Assembly, either. But it’s still a state where most Republican voters believe that the Governor’s job has something to do with Roe v. Wade or the Second Amendment.

Well, it’s not just Republican voters who seem to believe that. And they aren’t asking for a governor to do anything with the Second Amendment–they just want one who will recognize its existence, and support things like e.g., concealed carry, and oppose things like state “assault weapon” bans.

In a democracy, we get the government we deserve; since Reeps nominated Dan Lungren last time, that means we get Gray. In a Simon- Davis matchup, as soon as the Dems learn that Simon has never held office and is ardently anti-abortion, we’re gonna deserve four more years of Gray as our penalty for being stupid.

If being anti-abortion is a problem, then it must mean that Democrat and independent voters also believe that a governor has something to do with Roe v Wade. I think that he can get around this problem, if he has competent campaign managers.