Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tom Campbell Switches Races

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Campbell is expected to announce tomorrow that he will jump into the Republican primary race to face Barbara Boxer for her US Senate seat.

This race is an interesting one for me personally. My heart is with Chuck Devore, especially given the fact that he has been plugging away, building support for this run for over a year now. He constantly travels the state to speak to small groups and has built up a substantial network of grassroots support. However, there's a part of my brain that keeps pointing out that Carly Fiorina probably has a better shot at knocking off Boxer in the general election. Conservatives aren't terribly effective at gaining statewide office in California, and a moderate, pro-life, Republican woman might be just the right combination to enthuse Republicans while capturing Democrats and independent voters.

Having said all of that, I have one big question about Campbell's jump. Devore is the red-meat conservative with grassroots support, Fiorina is the attractive moderate candidate with star power and money. What does Campbell bring to the table? He's fleeing the governor's race because Whitman and Poizner drop more in tip money than his entire campaign budget. Ok. But he can't transfer the pittance he has raised for a statewide race to a Senate race (had he moved into another statewide race like Insurance Commissioner he could have taken his money with him) and he is months behind the other two candidates in preparation and fundraising. He doesn't fill an obvious political vacuum (he probably fills the same ideological space as Fiorina, though he's a little to her left on social issues) and California Republican primary races aren't known for being kind environments for penniless moderates.

Admittedly though, he is a smart and experienced guy. Tom Campbell's one indisputable skill is his wonkery. With a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago, a JD from Harvard, and a resume that includes stints in Congress, the Assembly, and as dean of UC Berkeley's Business School, he's usually the smartest guy in any room he enters. And we all know how well wonkery sells in political races. Just ask Presidents Paul Tsongas, Phil Gramm, and Mitt Romney.