- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

Republican Bill Simon's once moribund campaign for governor of California is showing signs of life, some California Republicans say. Others aren't so sure.
The campaign had been running on fumes until President Bush, risking bad publicity, fulfilled a commitment by appearing with Mr. Simon at three fund-raising events in the state on Friday and Saturday.
"Simon is better off," Jim Brulte, the California Republican Senate leader, said yesterday in assessing the impact of the Bush visit on the candidate, whose campaign was rocked in late July by a jury's $78 million award in a fraud lawsuit against the Simon family's investment firm.
"It was very honorable for the president to come out," said Able Maldonado, a Republican member of the California Assembly. "He is a very loyal man. He had committed to coming out and he did."
At a time when Mr. Bush is calling for zero tolerance for unethical business practices, Mr. Simon has been suffering bad publicity over tax problems and the fraud lawsuit brought by a business partner who, it turned out, had served person time on a drug-smuggling conviction.
Gov. Gray Davis, the Democratic incumbent, has been running television ads capitalizing on Mr. Simon's problems and asking: If he can't run his own businesses and keep track of his own taxes, how can he be governor? Mr. Simon's campaign, which had only about $5 million in cash on hand, chose not to spend it on ads answering Mr. Davis.
That is why so many Republicans, fearing the Simon campaign would collapse before Labor Day and take Republican hopes statewide with it, held their breath over whether Mr. Bush would travel to California for Mr. Simon.
"It was big of President Bush to be out here at a time when he was talking about corporate responsibility," Mr. Maldonado said.
"Did it boost the Simon campaign? Definitely," said Mr. Maldonado. "It was a huge shot in the arm. No question Simon has been hurt by the jury verdict. He has had some tough times but hopefully things will get a little better for him things can only get better."
"Simon's campaign treasury has millions of additional dollars," said Mr. Brulte. "And the president, after his trip here, is as popular in California as he was three days ago, maybe more so."
Whether the president or the candidate benefited more is unclear.
"I don't believe Bush did himself any harm," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican campaign strategist in California. "The way the press out here painted it, Bush had no choice but to come. He was caught between a rock and a hard place."
Invitations, in fact, had already been issued and tickets sold ranging from $1,000 a person to $25,000 for pictures with Mr. Bush by the time news of the Los Angeles jury award against the Simon firm became public.
"If the president had canceled his trip here for Simon, the Democrats would be shouting about how he is not a man of his word," Mr. Brulte said. "He showed he is a man of his word and keeps his commitments."
As for whether it helped Mr. Simon," Mr. Hoffenblum said, "If Bush hadn't made the trip, we'd be talking about write-in candidates [to replace Mr. Simon]."
"All told, the president has raised somewhere between $7 million and $9 million for Simon less than a month's worth of saturation advertising on television in California but a significant amount nonetheless," said Mr. Brulte.
Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani made his second trek to California on Mr. Simon's behalf last week.
After being "dark" for much of the summer while Mr. Davis' cash-rich campaign bombarded him with television ads, Mr. Simon responded with an ad of his own a modest $300,000 buy on cable television that received the free press attention for which it was designed.

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