Brown Victory Alters the Playing Field in California GOP Senate Primary

Prior to last week, Fiorina and DeVore were running essentially tied in head-to-head matchups (and Fiorina's numbers had been declining). But the dynamic has changed with the race becoming a three-way contest, and momentum on the ground will be dramatically influenced by events in both California and Washington.

Most crucial is the state's economy. California is expected to again face a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, and unemployment remains at 12.4 percent, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. And from San Diego to San Francisco, the Golden State's grassroots tea party movement has been protesting vociferously against the Democratic-socialist takeover in Washington. There's going to be zero tolerance for RINOs among conservative activists. Carly Fiorina's already been hammered as "the next Dede Scozzafava," and DeVore's long been identified as the only "mainstream conservative" in the race. As Dan Riehl wrote last November:

DeVore is sharp. He combines a solid conservative record and set of ideas with the polish from having worked in D.C. before going on to the Aerospace industry. His returning to electoral politics and being retired military has given DeVore the type of polish and discipline that wins political campaigns.

And I can attest, from a year's worth of activism in the local tea party movement, that DeVore is going to have a lock on the conservative base of the GOP's primary electorate. Even local party officials are talking about a "second American Revolution." Somehow I doubt that Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina will generate much enthusiasm among the state's movement activists. Based on this analysis, I expect that Chuck DeVore will emerge as the Marco Rubio of the GOP Senate primary in California (with a similar set of political assets).

The only wildcard is the campaign finance game. But Fiorina's fundraising success has been below expectations (although she may spend her own fortune), and Campbell is not known as an especially powerful fundraiser either (and campaign finance laws prohibit transfer of funds from the governor's race to the Senate campaign). That leaves considerable opportunity for DeVore.

While his reported funding is well behind Fiorina's, public attention has yet to shift to the primaries in a big way. And so, in the months ahead, conservatives may well light a fire under the assemblyman from Irvine. Should the campaign launch a couple of grassroots "tea party money-bomb" fundraisers, we could see a surge in campaign receipts in no time. Scott Brown raised $1.3 million in small contributions in a one-day money-bomb on January 11. No doubt folks will try for a similar effort out west.

Thus with the state's gridlocked institutions and collapsing fiscal circumstances, the DeVore campaign -- viewed as the genuine tea party alternative -- has the potential to mobilize a grassroots "Bear Flag revolt." And should things turn out differently, we're still going to have an exceptional year in politics.

Something may very well happen, big time, in California.