- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

Call it “the Arnold effect” — the confidence factor that has boosted hopes among California Republicans that they can topple two-term Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Last year’s election of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has injected a can-do spirit into the state’s Republican Party, even when it comes to taking out the incumbent Democrat, who has survived previous challenges despite being seen by many Republicans as “vulnerable.”

When the four Republicans who are bidding to take on Mrs. Boxer in November get together for a forum, they almost ignore the fact that they must first win tomorrow’s primary.

“I am the best against Barbara Boxer,” former Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian said last week during a radio debate on KOGO-AM in San Diego.

“I can go up against Barbara Boxer and I will beat Barbara Boxer,” said Republican front-runner Bill Jones, former California secretary of state.

The two are joined at the top of the Republican primary ballot by former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, and former Los Altos Hills Mayor Toni Casey.

The contest will be decided tomorrow on a ballot that also includes several initiatives, as well as the state’s presidential primary.

“Barbara Boxer is out of touch with her base here in California, and she has been re-elected only once,” Mr. Kaloogian said in an interview. The chairman of last fall’s successful effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, Mr. Kaloogian has the backing of a number of national conservative activists, including Paul Weyrich and Phyllis Schlafly.

His campaign put up a series of statewide TV and radio ads last week. Mr. Kaloogian also received crucial exposure Feb. 20 when he led a protest against illegal immigration outside the state Republican Party convention.

Mr. Jones, however, still has the edge — chiefly because of name recognition. He served eight years as California secretary of state and was the Republican gubernatorial challenger in 2002. He lost that election to Mr. Davis, who was in turn removed from office in the 2003 special election that made Mr. Schwarzenegger governor.

Polls show Mr. Jones leading by a 2-to-1 margin over his Republican rivals. He has about $600,000 in campaign funds, far outpacing the others, and is endorsed by Mr. Schwarzenegger.

“We need a candidate who is electable statewide,” Mr. Jones told The Washington Times. “I have done that. We need someone who can beat Barbara Boxer. I can do that.”

Mrs. Boxer is a Democratic loyalist and her constituency is solid, said Dick Rosengarten, publisher of the state political newsweekly California Political Week.

“Republicans always think that Boxer is vulnerable, ever since she first ran for the Senate,” Mr. Rosengarten said. “And every time, she whips them. And she wins even though every six years, the Republicans come up with a very good candidate.”

In 1998, centrist Republican State Treasurer Matt Fong led Mrs. Boxer by 5 percentage points in polls just three weeks before the election. The national Republican Party gave $3 million to the Fong campaign, but Mr. Fong lost by about 800,000 votes, a 53 percent-to-43 percent margin.

But Republicans are still hopeful that this is the year they’ll send Mrs. Boxer packing.

“Any of these Republicans at the top of the race have a better shot against her than anyone has before,” said Dan Schnur, a Republican consultant in Sacramento.

Going into tomorrow’s primary, “Jones has the support of the last three Republican governors of the state,” Mr. Schnur noted. “But this is a revamped party, and nothing is a lock.”

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