A concered friend wrote me a cryptic, funny e-mail yesterday: "How far is the Arizona border? And how quickly can you pack?"
My reply, I think, sums up my take on why Tuesday's Red Tide barely made a ripple in California (which, incidentally, is the subject of the Scripps-Howard column this week.)
You're talking about California? I'm not too worried. Oh, sure, it's going to be a disaster, but it will be a great show. If I had my druthers, the entire GOP establishment in this state would be exiled or put on a barge and set adrift in the Pacific. They're worse than useless. But Jerry Brown is a politician and an opportunist par excellence. He'll surprise us, I think. (Maybe not pleasantly, but he'll surprise us just the same.)
Everyone needs to understand just how lame Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina were. Brown in the last week was airing a brilliant ad that put Schwarzenegger's statements and Whitman's statements side-by-side. They were practically word-for-word. I voted for her, God knows, only because I could never vote for Brown. But I had no doubt I was voting for Arnold in a pantsuit.
Fiorina constantly sounded a defensive tone, and a few days ago told a reporter she would probably have a voting record similar to Dianne Feinstein's. Way to close the deal, Carly!
What may be said of the candidates for governor and U.S. Senator may be said with even greater force about the down-ticket races, with the possible exception of Tony Strickland, who had no money or exposure in his race for controller. Lt. Governor Abel Maldanado sold out on taxes. Mike Villines, the former assembly leader running for Insurance commissioner, also sold out. Steve Cooley, who is still locked in a death struggle with Kamala Harris, the liberal Democrat D.A. of San Francisco, talked out of both sides of his mouth. The only solid stand he took during the one televised debate he had was to say he would happily accept two state pensions if elected. Naturally, Harris used that in an ad. Damon Dunn, the GOP nominee for Secretary of State, had never voted in an election in his adult life prior to May 2009. (By all accounts, by the way, Dunn is an affable fellow -- a former pro athlete and successful businessman -- with a future in state politics. Perhaps he should have picked a different race to run.)
I was disappointed with one, and only one, outcome on Tuesday night and that was the defeat of Prop. 23. What can I say? I did my best. But I'm glad Prop. 25 won. That one lowers the budget voting threshold from the two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority. (Tax increases will remain at two-thirds; and voters Tuesday approved a measure applying the supermajority to fees, too -- which may blunt Prop. 23's defeat in the long run.) But I doubt the current (dwindling) crop of Republicans will know what to do with the gift they've been given.
I don't think anything is certain here. The dynamic will change a bit in the aftermath of these elections. Now all we need are some Republicans with the skill and foresight to take advantage of it. What could go wrong?
Over at the L.A. Times, the Mighty Arnie Steinberg explains why Meg Whitman lost. Bottom line: "The vulgarity of Whitman's spending trumped any real connection with the voters."
Ladd Ehlinger at Film Ladd offers a 10-point answer to the question "What Went Wrong in California?" I don't agree with every word of it, but he makes some perceptive points and it's a fun read.
Meantime, Lance Williams at California Watch observes how "not all of the victors and the vanquished from California’s state election Tuesday were apparent from scanning the returns."