Campbell’s last stand: ‘Only I can beat Boxer’

Former Congressman, Cal business school dean and state finance director Tom Campbell will spend the final week of the Republican U.S. Senate primary emphasizing the fact that polls show he’s the only one who can beat U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in November, he told reporters on a conference call a few minutes ago.

But he’ll be doing so on a shoestring, while the candidate whom the latest poll shows in the lead – former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – spends heavily on television ads. Campbell, whose campaign coffers are largely tapped out, will spend the week hitting GOP strongholds around the state in search of last-minute contributions and media attention.

A USC/Los Angeles Times poll released over the weekend showed Fiorina at 38 percent, Campbell at 23 percent and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, at 16 percent.

“As an outsider and fiscal conservative, Carly is the candidate who will go to Washington and refuse to become part of what Ronald Reagan once called ‘the Washington buddy system,’ “ Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund had said Saturday. “One-time front runner Tom Campbell has seen his fortunes fade as we predicted because he could run on name identification, but could not run from his 20-year record of support for higher taxes and bigger government.”

But that same poll also showed only Campbell beating Boxer in a hypothetical November match-up, 45 percent to 38 percent; the poll showed Boxer beating Fiorina by 6 percentage points and DeVore by 10. That’s what he’s playing up in a new video, released today, that he hopes will go viral:

“Those who are undecided I think are likely pragmatic voters, and so we make the pragmatic argument: If you want to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer, there’s one candidate who has a very good chance of doing so,” Campbell said on today’s conference call. “I win if I get that message out.”

Campbell also reiterated his history as a fiscal conservative, and highlighted some of the differences between him and Boxer: his support of constitutional limits on spending; his approval of Arizona’s immigration law; his support for trying terrorism suspects in military tribunals and keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open; his opposition to a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and his opposition to confirming Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

No matter who the nominee turns out to be, the poll held some bad news for Republicans: It showed that Californians overwhelmingly want a senator who’ll support President Barack Obama’s policies. In fact, among decline-to-state voters who’ll be November’s crucial swing vote, a senator backing Obama won the support of 56 percent, compared to 29 percent for a senator who would oppose him.

“Whenever he’s right, I’m with him,” Campbell quipped when asked about this, noting it’s vital for the GOP nominee not to come across as closed-minded.

He cited his support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program instituted by President George W. Bush and continued by President Obama to stabilize the nation’s financial industry in late 2008 and 2009, as well as his record in Congress and the state Senate of seeking solutions across the aisle. “I think those who know my record know I’m interested in finding common ground for the good of the state and the good of the country.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    Only Campbell can’t beat Boxer.

  • John W

    I’m surprised DeVore hasn’t done better with the GOP base and tea crowd. I don’t think the current Boxer vs ? matchup polls mean much. Fiorina will shift toward the middle in the general election to capture independents.

  • Truthclubber

    Despite what “Arr, Arr” says, Campbell is the only person who Boxer will be unable to paint as an extremist and once again use polarizing politics to her advantage, which is the only way she’s been able to win all these years.

    However, with ideological idiots like “Arr Arr” in control of the GOP, they will once again go down to flaming defeat with their purity intact, much like the extremists they emulate such as the French leftist’s “ostrich head in the sand” or Nazi-like “Goebbels scorched earth” behavior toward any would-be moderates.

  • Bill P.

    Tom Campbell is an independently-thinking Republican who is a man of great integrity and an outstanding public servant. Many Democrats would vote for him, but not for Fiorina or for DeVore. Let’s face it — Democrats have an uphill battle making the case for “change” in a “change” type of election year. Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer personify the tired, 1970s-era Democratic party that went out of fashion long ago — they are just “faces” for the odd matches of “identity politics” coalitions that placed them in office. (Do you know any sensible Democrat who is actually excited with the idea of “Governor Jerry Brown”? Even many Democrats regard him as a flaky, arrogant nut case who is one of the most untrustworthy chameleons in modern California politics.) Tom Campbell is himself weighed down by his fealty to Ronald Reagan’s brand of fiscal/economic policy conservatism that created the “too big to fail” Great Recession. If Campbell can offer an effective explanation as to why some of his own ideas have been proven wrong by the Great Recession and can admit that more government economic regulation is necessary, then he will win more Democratic votes. Fiorina is just a failed C.E.O. who is looking for a new type of power as a U.S. senator — nothing more. Does anyone really think she is capable of making important decisions about treaties and judicial appointments, let alone national policy matters?