Is California Irredeemably Blue?

Article excerpt

Byline: George F. Will

Yes, if Barbara Boxer wins in a year like this.

Newport Beach, Calif.--Carly Fiorina, 55, has been contending with chemotherapy and radiation treatments and reconstructive surgery because of breast cancer, so she is understandably undaunted by the relatively minor challenge of winning a U.S. Senate seat in this state that last elected a freshman Republican senator in 1982, that has not supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, and that has not elected a right-to-life candidate in statewide voting since 1998. This race will test the power of the rising Republican wave.

Fiorina might surf it from here to Capitol Hill because her opponent, Barbara Boxer, 69, is the Senate's fiercest liberal, and California is an intensely unhappy laboratory for liberalism--high taxes, opulent entitlements, thick regulations, and subservience to government employees' unions.

During 10 years in Congress, Boxer represented San Francisco suburbs where many residents consider the city's liberalism too tepid. She is used to having the wind at her back. In 1992, California's "year of the woman," she ran for the Senate in tandem with Dianne Feinstein, who won the final two years of the Senate term Pete Wilson left when he became governor. Boxer was reelected in 1998 when California was luxuriating in the tech boom. In 2004 she won when John Kerry was trouncing George W. Bush in the state by 10 points. Now the 28-year Washington veteran seeking a fourth term is running into headwinds.

Three years ago, global warming was one of the top issues for Californians. Now it has dropped off the radar in a state with actual, rather than hypothetical, problems. Unemployment is at least 15 percent in 21 of the state's 58 counties. Of the 13 U.S. metropolitan areas with unemployment that high, 11 are in California, which has lost more than 400,000 jobs since passage of the $862 billion stimulus. Like Barack Obama as he campaigns in what he calls Recovery Summer for more stimulus (because the first did not ignite recovery), Boxer is vexed by the fact that California's unemployment rate is 2.2 points higher than when stimulus was passed. When she said the stimulus was responsible for 100 jobs at a Los Angeles lithium-battery factory, the owner demurred, saying the stimulus had nothing to do with the jobs.

Boxer is stressing Fiorina's tempestuous tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the computer company, during which Fiorina sent some jobs abroad. …