Boxer's better off than Brown

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I know this is political heresy, but I was encouraged by the results of the Field poll on Boxer and Fiorina. I remember back in 1982, when Milton Marks, then a liberal Republican state senator, challenged incumbent Congressmember Phil Burton -- the legendary Democratic leader -- with an anti-incumbent message fairly similar to what Fiorina is throwing at Boxer. "The arrogance of power" was the slogan, and while Marks didn't try to say that Burton was too liberal (this was, after all, a San Francisco seat) the basic push was that an entrenched incumbent had grown stale and was unpopular. And in fact, the early polls showed Burton losing.

But a campaign consultant who was there at the early Burton strategy meetings told me a few years ago what the mood was like when the numbers came in: "We saw that he was down ten points, and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Because we knew we could make that up."

Some thing when Silicon Valley whiz kid Ed Zschau took on incumbent senator Alan Cranston in 1986. Cranston, the polls showed, had been around too long, was old and boring, an entrenched incumbent ... all the same messaging. Zschau was young, exciting, a moderate Republican who everyone thought was a shoo-in to unseat the incumbent. And Cranston ran a great campaign and beat him.

Boxer's negatives are too high, but she hasn't really reminded Californians yet of what she's been doing in Washington and who she really is. And she hasn't even begun to remind voters that Fiorina is anti-choice -- a position that really, really doesn't play in California.

Jerry Brown also has some good news from the Field poll, but he's not the campaigner that Boxer is. And he's got more trouble with younger voters. Frankly, he's worse off right now than she is. In fact, if I were in Boxer's camp right now, I'd be heaving a sigh of relief: She can turn this around.