Prop 8 Ruling Barely Registers on Top-of-the-Ticket Races in California

The problem is that Whitman's campaign bought Spanish-language ads and billboards up and down the state attacking Arizona's law and California's 1994 Proposition 187. However, in a late-July interview on America's Morning News Whitman said: "I would let the law stand for Arizona." You can't have it both ways, of course, and John and Ken hammered Whitman for her campaign's inconsistencies. According to the Los Angeles Times:

The interview was combative and tense. Whitman danced around many of the hosts' questions, such as why geography and size make Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration unworkable in California, or why she is running ads about Latino children but not those of other ethnicities.

"Why don't you make all your positions clear in all languages? That's all we're asking," said co-host John Kobylt, adding that she should translate her billboards into English. "Put those in English-speaking Orange County," he said.

Whitman's missteps are hardly trivial. Despite her record spending, the campaign is slightly trailing Jerry Brown in the polls. The Hispanic voting bloc turned out for Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain by a whopping 3-1 ratio in the 2008 presidential election. But luckily for her, Democrats are suffering from an enthusiasm gap this year, in both the general electorate and the Latino community (so lower turnout could help the GOP). And Jerry Brown has confessed that Whitman's money totals have caused a "little stress" on the Democratic side. And Brown doesn't seem to be helping himself greatly in the race for cash (another sign of an enthusiasm gap), where he's said to be running a record tightwad campaign with "no cost to too small to avoid."

The irony is that it may not matter that much. If Whitman wins, she's unlikely to govern all that differently from GOP Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (the state budget autopilot will likely continue under a Whitman administration). Voters looking for a tea party candidate won't find it in the former eBay CEO, and it'll be up to the voters to pass a ballot initiative designed to reform the state's budgetary process.

And that means that the results for the California Senate race have the potential to bring more lasting political change. Not much has happened in the race since the primaries closed. Even bored pollsters are reduced to asking respondents whether Barbara Boxer or Carly Fiorina has the better hairdo. But California's  Senate race is a toss-up and a Republican pickup in California is crucial to the party's chances of retaking the Senate majority in November (Republicans need 10 seats for the majority and Larry Sabato has the GOP picking up 7 right now).

A Fiorina win in California might signal a new GOP competitiveness in the once-Golden State, and could trigger a more lasting shift toward a political-economy of fiscal responsibility among the political class. And if the GOP's muted response to Judge Walker's gay marriage ruling is any guide, it's pretty clear that --- despite the social hot buttons --- the state's tectonic shifts will be shakin' over economic issues well through the next couple of political cycles.