September 5, 2004


Bill Jones' Campaign Quandary: With only tepid support from Bush, the GOP challenger to Sen. Boxer could use a boost from the governor -- who so far has kept his distance. (Scott Martelle, September 5, 2004, LA Times)

Support from Bush — which seems tepid at best — won't do Jones much good in a state where only two of five likely voters say they back the president. And though a public embrace from Schwarzenegger, whose job-approval rating stands above 60%, might help, the freshman governor so far has kept Jones at arm's length.

This is Jones' quandary. Despite campaign swings by such high-profile Republicans as Vice President Dick Cheney, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party has not given Jones the kind of support it has given candidates in other states, a disengagement that has left the former Fresno-area rancher mired in a political bog of low name recognition, low fundraising and low voter interest.

The lukewarm Boxer-Jones campaign seems at odds with the candidates themselves. Each is capable of a hard fight, and, together, they offer what voters say they want — real choices both in substance and in strategies, with Jones running as a conservative waving Schwarzenegger's bipartisan flag and Boxer seeking to make her race a referendum on national policies by campaigning against Bush as much as against Jones.

The election is the first chance since last year's rambunctious recall for voters to define the state's political soul. Republicans hoped that Schwarzenegger's win meant a political change of wind, but Jones' lagging efforts could confirm that Gov. Gray Davis' recall was the result of the specifics of the moment — a disgruntled electorate and a high-energy newcomer with Hollywood star power — rather than a fundamental shift among the state's voters.

This is one of the most likely longshot senatorial upsets if the presidential race becomes as big a landslide as it looks like it might. As the race becomes more secure for the President he can afford to campaign more heavily in ostensibly Blue states and particularly in those--CA, WA, VT, MD, WI, NY, etc.--where weak Democratic incumbents are up for re-election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 5, 2004 9:47 AM

California is a big state that would require a major time commitment, as well as money. Jones is going to have to show that he can fundraise on his own and that he is within striking distance and that he has a message that will appeal to Californians other than 'I'm not Barbara Boxer.'

Why should Arnold, who suffered from a series of tedious if not terribly damaging attacks from Tom McClintock, care about one of McClintock's friends? He's got a state to run, he may actually be the stalking horse of a new socially moderate, foreign policy conservative, economically pro-growth California GOP. Bob Dornan and Tom Mc Clintock need not apply.

Posted by: Bart at September 5, 2004 11:43 AM

Arnold chose Jones. He needs to win the seat with him.

Posted by: oj at September 5, 2004 12:08 PM

Jones does have to get out and make a positive case for himself, to at least get within striking distance of Boxer. Then he can hope for an eastern state blowout that would depress late Election Day balloting on the west coast (though with more early voting nowadays the effect probably wouldn't be as great as Carter's concession speech in 1980).

It would also be fun to watch, if such a secnario does develop, to see how the networks would handle an early Bush win. The new rules ban them from calling any state where all the polls have yet to close, to prevent a repeat of the Florida Panhandle gaffe, but they can call a state once that has happened. The question would be if they thought Senate seats in California (or Oregon, or even Colorado) were hanging in the balance, would they go against their natrual desire to be first with the news and hold their calls for an hour or two, just to keep from depressing both western Democrats and their votes themselves.

Posted by: John at September 5, 2004 1:12 PM

I thought there were some recent polls showing Jones only trailing by 6-8 and Boxer under 50 which would mean he had a decent shot?

Posted by: AWW at September 5, 2004 10:57 PM