GOP primary: Tom Campbell done in by money, moderation

SAN JOSE — Tom Campbell: Experienced, intelligent, moderate, articulate…and trounced by a less-experienced candidate in a Republican primary.

At 11 p.m. on election night, things had mostly been packed up in the small ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose that Campbell had rented. A “Beat Boxer: Campbell Can” campaign poster leaned against an empty podium, with the remains of a case of wine the only thing left on the stage behind it. Down in the bar, a couple dozen Campbell supporters sat watching the returns and talking about what happened.

Brian Brocious agreed with the “Campbell Can” concept: “Tom is right down the middle, which is great for me,” he said of Campbell’s fiscally conservative, socially moderate stances. While conservative groups hit Campbell hard on his support for gay marriage and abortion rights, Brocious noted “It was pretty clear to me that he had the best chance to beat Barbara Boxer.”

Brocious is a younger guy. Nearby, a couple of middle aged Campbell supporters disagreed. Ed Becmer and Gary Bochow, both executives, sounded disappointed by the loss but enthusiastic about Fiorina. Becmer declared that “Boxer is in trouble.” When asked why Campbell lost, both said it seemed like more of a matter of style than policy, in an environment where people were looking for a fiery newcomer like Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who won the race in a landslide.

“Tom is not an emotional guy,” Becmer said. “He doesn’t have the fire.”

Bochow agreed, saying Campbell “has done it too many times.” He added that he thought Republican primary voters did choose the candidate they thought had the best chance to beat Boxer.

“I think this has a lot more to do with campaign financing than anything else,” said Campbell campaign consultant Richard Temple, with the powerful firm McNally Temple.

Temple was sitting with about a dozen other Campbell supporters as midnight neared. Temple noted that even after a barrage of advertising from the Fiorina campaign — which included the infamous “Demon Sheep” ad — “Tom’s negatives didn’t go down. This is not an election that repudiated Tom Campbell.”

Campbell’s campaign spokeswoman, Erin Daly, was part of this same group. She noted that Fiorina was “burning up the airwaves,” something she said was important in a state “the size of California.” But that came from the $5 million she gave her own campaign. When it came to raising money from actual donors, she said, Campbell outraised her, despite not even entering the race until Jan. 14.

“In the last quarter, Tom significantly outraised Carly,” Daly said.

When asked if there was still room for moderates in the Republican Party, Daly added, “I hope so.” Boxer, she said, won her last two elections by staking out the middle before the Republican nominees could move back towards the middle. Daly pointed to Nevada, where a pair of more moderate Republicans lost out to the Tea Party-backed candidate Sharon Angle.

“Harry Reid is probably popping champagne right now,” Daly said. “I think Barbara Boxer is probably popping champagne as well.”

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