Commentary Magazine


So Goes California?

For years, Republicans considered New Jersey and California elections to be the Lucy of politics — always tempting with the football but inevitably pulling it away at the last moment. But then came Chris Christie’s win in the Garden State. And now Meg Whitman is leading Jerry Brown in the gubernatorial polls, and Barbara Boxer, perhaps the liberal whom Republicans most love to mock, could finally get booted.

Emily Cadei of Roll Call reports:

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has been the subject of any number of unflattering portrayals by Republican detractors over the past few months: a talkative blimp, an “obnoxious left-wing ideologue,” and “bitterly partisan,” to name a few. The barrage of criticism, which took on a new level of intensity with the state Republicans’ convention the weekend of March 12, appears to be taking its toll on the three-term senator.

To reflect polls showing a tightening general election race and California voters’ particularly sour mood about the direction of their state and the country, CQ Politics is changing its race rating from “Likely Democratic” to the increasingly competitive “Leans Democratic.”

Two polls conducted in March showed Boxer’s lead over two potential Republican challengers narrowing to a virtual tie. One of those two surveys, the Field Poll, had Boxer leading by double digits as recently as January.

In any other election year, it would seem inconceivable, but California has been the petri dish for the failure of liberal government, and the voters are in an ornery mood. And Republicans argue that if New Jersey and Massachusetts can go Republican, why not California? The Republicans have a dog fight in their primary. (Obama’s assault on Israel probably hasn’t helped Tom Campbell any whose record on Israel is of considerable relevance.) And Californians are more supportive of ObamaCare than many other Americans. But the race is indisputably competitive, and that in and of itself is important. The Senate race will consume Democratic resources that otherwise could be used to help candidates in traditionally more competitive states. It is further evidence that in the Obama era, there are very few “safe” Democratic seats.