Brown Victory Alters the Playing Field in California GOP Senate Primary

Scott Brown's earthshaking Senate victory in Massachusetts last week sent observers across the political universe into heart palpitations. Democrats were simply shocked that the seat held by Edward Kennedy since 1962 would fall to a GOP state senator with little name recognition or machine power in the "bluest of blue states." Republicans (and especially conservatives) saw their dreams come true in the "Massachusetts miracle."

This was an electoral triumph recalling a political "shot heard 'round the world." For the establishment media and other commentators, the Bay State shocker was most quickly framed as holding grave implications for the Obama administration's health care agenda in Congress. With Senator-elect Brown about to become the GOP's 41st vote in the upper chamber, many analysts have concluded that it's do-over time for the Democrats.

But also front and center has been speculation on the prospects of Brown's "Massachusetts model" for this year's midterm congressional elections. For example, an analysis from Michael Barone predicts extremely favorable electoral conditions for GOP House candidates this year. Barone suggests that Republicans -- should they run as strongly as Scott Brown on January 19 -- have a shot at winning in the 332 districts that "voted 63% or less for Obama" in the 2008 presidential election. On the Senate side, congressional handicapper Charlie Cook, writing prior to January 19, said that Republicans were likely to pick up four to six seats in the upper chamber, and that the vulnerable Democrats have a "total of nine seats in play."

Among those nine "most endangered" seats (listed last) is Barbara Boxer's in California. And as Cook notes at the entry:

Boxer's vulnerability depends more on whether former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina turns out to be a sure-footed challenger. There's no question that if Fiorina chooses to outspend Boxer, it wouldn't be hard.

Cook's essay is dated January 12. Since then, of course, we've seen Brown's election to the Senate. In a follow-up article dated January 23, Cook argued that Brown's campaign was " like watching a world-class surfer catch the wave of a lifetime."

Well, the surf's still churning, especially in California. And there's been another development as well, captured in this title from the Los Angeles Times on January 13: "Senate Race to Unseat Boxer Takes Unexpected Turn." It turns out that former U.S. Representative Tom Campbell has abandoned his campaign for the governorship and has shifted his sights on Barbara Boxer's Senate seat.

A moderate, Campbell is pro-choice and campaigned in 2008 against passage of Proposition 8 (California's initiative banning same-sex marriage). Initial polls show him leading both Carly Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Orange County. For example, the prestigious California Field Poll found Campbell favored by 30 percent among likely voters for the GOP nomination in June. Fiorina trails at 25 percent, and DeVore follows at 6 percent (with 39 percent undecided). Campbell's own internal campaign polling shows him with higher favorables (name recognition) than both Fiorina and DeVore.