May 21, 2002


Long-Shot Winner Turns Dark Horse in California (JAMES STERNGOLD, May 21, 2002, NY Times)
It has been less than three months since Mr. Simon, a wealthy businessman, son of former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon and first-time candidate for political office, won a come-from-behind victory in the Republican primary. But already his candidacy appears to have lost the momentum from that upset.

Mr. Simon has been holding campaign events that are all but ignored, and the gap between his war chest and that of Mr. Davis remains vast. The governor, a prodigious fund-raiser, has a little more than $28 million in hand; Mr. Simon, who had less than $700,000 after the March primary, has been able to amass $6 million or so with help from President Bush.

One problem, many members of his own party complain, is the soft, sunny tone that Mr. Simon adopts in his efforts to strike a Reaganesque pose, in contrast to the hard-hitting Davis campaign, which has called Mr. Simon a "rank amateur" and a "sanctimonious hypocrite."

Mr. Simon's aides argue that opponents who underestimated him in the primary paid the price, and maintain that voters will respond more to his hopeful, pro-business themes than to slashing attacks. But even some senior Republicans criticize his distaste for the harsh offensive and his insistence on describing himself as a Reagan conservative above the fray.

"There are some situations where he's just politically naïve," said Dave Cox, who heads the Republican caucus in the State Assembly. "Ultimately he has to define himself better, and when you run for governor you have to be prepared to play with the big boys."

There is no greater sin in politics than to allow your opponent to define you in the minds of the voters. Democrats have developed a surefire way of doing so in liberal states (like CA), by simply describing the GOP nominee as too far to the Right : on abortion, guns, etc. Had Simon had the money advantage, he might have been able to buy the advertising that he needed to establish himself as a common sense conservative, but with no money you can't compete in California's prohibitively expensive media driven races. Stick a fork in him--he's done. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 21, 2002 11:32 AM
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