In all, a curious week on the California Republican front.
Not that California Democrats lack for intrigue as well.
Take Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who discovered her campaign coffers were looted to the tune of $5 million.
Conventional wisdom around California holds that Feinstein plans to run for re-election next year. Indeed, she replenished that empty checking account with $5 million of her own. She's also suing at least one bank to get her money back.
But I'm gonna go against the flow and suggest some reasons why she may take a pass:
1) DC in 2013. Odds are Republicans take over the Senate come next November. That means Feinstein would have to step down as chair of the Intelligence Committee. It also means she's on the losing end of 10-8 committee votes. And, if the new Senate is more populated with Tea Partiers, her centrist style will be out of vogue in a chamber with a DeMinty flavor. She might look at the changing landscape and decide it's not worth the hassle.
2) Age. Feinstein turns 79 next summer, so presumably this would be her final hurrah. Getting back to the first point, does she want to spend that last term getting muscled around by Republicans? Moreover, what if she couldn't finish the term? Would she want Jerry Brown or, if Brown doesn't run for a second term, a new governor -- heaven forbid, a Republican! -- to choose her successor?
3) Legacy. Should she step down next year, Feinstein gets positive reviews: she led San Francisco through its darkest days (the Milk/Moscone shooting); stood up to her party on the death penalty as a gubernatorial candidate back in 1990; blazed a moderate trail (reporters just love those moderates), etc. But an extra six years in D.C. -- especially, six ineffective years in the minority -- could tarnish the record ("she hung around too long", they might write).
But, under the category of "careful what you wish for", what would a vacated Feinstein seat mean for California Republicans?
The answer: a headache in trying to find a candidate who could win.
Consider the list of potentials: Whitman's presumably out; Carly Fiorina's working for the NRSC, also a sign of a non-candidate; Steve Poizner couldn't beat Whitman in the last gubernatorial primary; Tom Campbell, who finished behind Fiorina in the 2010 Senate primary, has twice run for the world's most deliberative body; Chuck DeVore, currently a candidate for supervisor in Orange County, finished third in the race behind Fiorina and Campbell.
All would be challenged, to put it politely, in a California Senate race. It's a combination of either too conservative, too money-strapped, or too much political baggage.
Is there an unknown Republican lurking in the shadows, ready to make a big impact? It would have to be someone with at least one or more of the three following attributes: (1) charisma/buzz/name-recognition (Schwarzenegger); (2) an eight-figure fortune to spend (Whitman/Schwarzenegger); a compelling biography (Arnold/Fiorina (female CEO/breast-cancer survivor)).
What this tells me: for the last decade, Californians have been over-reliant on short-cut politics -- like a baseball team that pins its hopes on home runs rather than on-base percentage. Bill Simon, Schwarzenegger, Whitman and Fiorina all were first-time candidates. At the same time, the GOP failed to win lower-tier statewide offices; GOP members of Congress are averse to the idea of giving up a safe seat for an uphill bid back in the Golden State. Thus the depleted GOP bench in 2012.
My question to you bright Ricocheters: how does the California GOP fix this problem?
And what exactly is the problem? Is it running the wrong candidates, running on the wrong message, or trying to run as Republicans in the wrong state?
Your thoughts . . .?