A Campaign Dedicated to Losing

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

In the annals of California political history, very few campaigns have been worse than that which Steve Poizner has run for governor. But his keystone kops effort also underscores how very close the California Republican Party is to disappearing as a political force in this state.


Consider his latest. In an effort to brand himself the “true conservative” in the race, Poizner has evoked Tom McClintock in a new radio ad and web posting. It encourages California Republicans to support him because McClintock does.


Tom McClintock may be the single biggest loser in California political history. No other major party candidate has lost so regularly every time he has presented himself to the voters in a statewide election. Look at the record: in 1994, a grand GOP landslide year, McClintock was defeated for state controller. In 2002, a good GOP year nationally, McClintock again was defeated for controller. In 2003, he garnered exactly 14 percent running for governor in the Davis recall. And in 2006, he managed a fourth loss, running for lieutenant governor. With this record Poizner thinks voters should let McClintock pick the GOP gubernatorial contender.


The reason to pick Poizner, says McClintock in the ads, is that Poizner won’t be another Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2003, Schwarzenegger got 49 percent in a field of 135 candidates for governor, McClintock, with 14 percent as noted, ran behind even the hapless Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante. In 2006, Schwarzenegger led the GOP ticket as McClintock was swamped in the lieutenant governor’s race. Gee, maybe, voters liked Schwarzenegger and didn’t like McClintock; could that be possible?


But wait, there’s more. The reason to vote for Poizner, his team tells us, is that he does not have Arnold’s political team, “As Tom McClintock stated, ‘Meg Whitman has nothing to offer other than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s third term.’ Not only does Meg Whitman have the same handlers that Schwarzenegger did when he ran for Governor, but Meg Whitman is practically running on the same platform.”


So let’s look at the platform:


Arnold and Meg “support taxpayer funded abortions,” Poizner (who used to support abortion rights himself) tells us. But in the past 20 years every anti-abortion rights Republican has lost; every pro-abortion right Democrat has won. Duh?


Arnold and Meg “support taxpayer funded benefits for illegal immigrants.” Actually this is probably not accurate but to xenophobic voters beating up on illegal immigrants is code language for keeping the Mexicans in their place. Apparently Poizner thinks the road to victory is to be the anti-Irish candidate if he were running in Boston; the anti-black candidate if he were running in Harlem, and the anti-Jewish candidate if he were running in Beverly Hills – all of which makes as much sense as being the anti-Latino candidate running in California.


What is dangerous to the survival of the Republican Party is that this nonsense finds credence in the upper reaches of the state GOP, an organization that seems dedicated to losing elections. There is a fixation among Republicans to run candidates and campaigns that guarantee their defeat. We are on the edge of becoming a state with no elected statewide Republicans and less than a third in either house of the legislature. We may see the greatest flood of tax increases in California history if Jerry Brown is elected with a two thirds majority in each house.


Yet rather than becoming more in tune with the political realities of California – for instance more Latinos moving into the middle class and voting every election – the state GOP and candidates like Poizner seem bent on becoming more marginal. There is a distinct possibility they will throw away their opportunities in this election year which could be one of the best for Republicans ever.


If that happens, at least everyone will know the reason why.

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