More Whistling In The Dark For Gray

Over at Instapundit (you know where it is…over there on the left), Glenn publishes an input from Orrin Judd:

Looking around the web recently, it seems to me that folks (especially in blogdom) are reading California in much the way they read New York in 2000, that is to say, inaccurately. You can string out reasons that a Hillary or a Gray Davis will lose until you are blue in the face, but at the end of the day, they are Democrats in Democratic states and they win. The race it most reminds me of is actually Mitt Romney vs. Ted Kennedy–attractive young GOP businessman vs. obviously outmoded liberal hack. The race looks close in Spring and early Summer but then the Dems come home to the party, hold their noses, and vote for the yellow dog.

There is one difference between those races and this year’s race between Simon and Davis (well, actually there are several, but this is the biggest one). They fall on two different sides of an epochal divide called September 11. I think that people underestimate the change in mood that occurred last fall. I don’t think that Lazio or Romney were ever ahead by eight points in the polls (as Simon seems to be right now, though it’s not getting much ink or pixels). And I don’t think that the Republicans were ahead of the Dems by as much in the Congressional preference polls as they seem to be now.

I think that it’s overly simplistic to call California a “Democratic state.” Even if registered Dems outnumber Republicans, they don’t always outvote them (particularly when many of them are “motor voter” types, who wouldn’t have bothered to register otherwise, and likely won’t find their way to the polls).

Much of California Republican’s problems arise from lack of enthusiasm among their own rank and file for non-entities like Fong and Lundgren. Give them someone to vote for, and they’ll get a much higher turnout than the Dems can have any hope of expecting for Davis (which is why I believe, though we’ll never know now, that win or lose, Simon will do better than Riordan would have).

So I think that Republicans have been losing because they’ve been putting up dud candidates. Maybe Simon will be, too, but I don’t think so. Actually Orrin’s argument is the last one that the Democrats have (not to imply that he’s a Democrat, or not–I don’t know his affiliation). With their candidate, they’ve got a loser on personality, his policies are universally recognized to be a disaster, he’ll be campaigning against a candidate who’ll have stratospherically-popular George Bush and Rudy Giuliani in his corner (probably with regular state visits), and his vaunted money-raising advantage will turn out to be a wash against a wealthy candidate not constrained by donation limits.

Match all that up with the new post-911 mood, and the argument that “the Democrats will come home in November” sounds an awful lot like the argument that “Gore will win in 2000, because the economy’s good.” A lot of political-science/economy professors got a major omelette on their collective faces from that one.