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Requiem for a Lightweight

The final days of Barbara Boxer?

Mar 22, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 26 • By K.E. GRUBBS JR.
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You’re a California Republican and, this being an election year, anxiety is mounting. Your state endures unspeakable economic crises, mostly caused by the union-Democratic axis of Sacramento. Unemployment numbers are higher than the national average, and you’re hearing financial experts declare your deficit-plagued, once-golden state to be in worse shape than—oh the indignity!—Greece.

What to do? You might just be able to keep a Republican governor, never mind that the term of the current one, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is coming to an inglorious end. After all, the Democrats appear poised to nominate Attorney General Jerry Brown. Yes, that Jerry Brown, “Governor Moonbeam” himself, who after three decades wants another shot. You’ve got two exceptional candidates in former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. If they don’t commit mutual destruction before the June 8 primary, you might avert the seventies insanity all over again.

Except that Washington, D.C., now in the hands of the Democratic left, could steer the economy, including California’s pivotal part of it, to grim levels unknown even in the Stagnant Decade. Suddenly, firing the state’s junior senator—which could help deny Vice President Joe Biden a decisive vote in the upper house—looks not only imperative but downright plausible.

In Hollywood’s home state, visuals are everything. Here’s one from a June 2009 congressional hearing: Brigadier General Michael Walsh, answering questions from three-term junior senator Barbara Boxer, politely addresses her as “Ma’am.” At which point a shrewish, hyper-feminist Boxer turns the committee room into an icebox:

Do me a favor. Could you say “senator” instead of “ma’am”? It’s just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it—yes, thank you. 

The video went viral, and even in a state favorably disposed to women’s rights, the Bay Area’s Boxer failed the screen test. California’s voters have lately been holding her approval ratings below 50 percent.

Three GOP challengers now sense that those voters may finally be in a mood to replace this unapologetic tribune of the antiwar, enviro-left, who has spent her last term pursuing a jobs-killing cap and trade scheme.

The first to draw media attention was former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, whose friendship with Senator John McCain throughout the 2008 presidential campaign—and lack of previous political interest—stirred suspicions from conservatives. Before and after her November 3, 2009, declaration of candidacy in an Orange County Register op-ed, Fiorina has devoted herself to allaying those suspicions.

She’s done so, for the most part. And convincingly, as I learned not long ago at a small breakfast gathering in Georgetown. Boxer, she predicted, will try to make the election a referendum on liberal values, with the senator lined up on the progressive side of every issue. The senator imagines most Californians share her views, a dubious assumption in this recession. Fiorina, by contrast, plans to define the issues as jobs, out of control spending, bigger government, higher taxes, and the thicket of regulations Washington plans to layer on top of already burdensome rules.

Fiorina, a breast cancer survivor, relishes a fight with Boxer, who, she notes, routinely manufactured gender issues with which to punch her three previous opponents, all males. Boxer will thus be made to defend the command economy she and her Capitol Hill colleagues are designing against a proven champion of opportunity-creating markets. Fiorina expects to attract more donors from an oppressed business community, recently freed to contribute without limit by the Supreme Court; she has led the way by spending $2.5 million of her own money already.

For the benefit of skeptical pro--lifers, some of whom claim to have espied pro-choice weasel words in various of her statements, Fiorina recently told this magazine she favors overturning Roe v. Wade. If Boxer and the Democratic left are publicly (and predictably) scandalized by that, Fiorina expects to pivot easily to the economy.

With no need to establish conservative bona fides, Irvine assemblyman Chuck DeVore has spent the last year campaigning in both old- and new-fashioned ways. He’s stumped up and down the state, driving himself to the farthest reaches of the red-county interior to pick up support from remote Republican clubs, all along regaling Facebook followers with details of his travels. In early March, despite Fiorina’s own pitch to the activist group, DeVore easily picked up the endorsement of the stalwart right-wing California Republican Assembly. 

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