It's all Sen. Dianne Feinstein's fault. That's what I figure.
Well, maybe not all of it.
We would have been spared that wasteful, costly, divisive special election last year. And Feinstein, 72, would now be a shoo-in for reelection — not for the Senate, as she is, but for the state's highest office.
Actor Schwarzenegger wouldn't be running this time either. He'd assess the situation as analyst Tony Quinn does: "There's no way Arnold Schwarzenegger would have gotten elected governor this year as a non-incumbent Republican in this political climate."
This climate being turbulent for Republicans nationally.
Feinstein didn't run in 2003 because she felt that by offering herself to voters as an alternative to fellow Democrat Davis, she'd be acting like a turncoat and a jerk. Anyway, although she'd long coveted the governorship, she also loved being a senator.
So Democratic voters are stuck with what many view as disappointing choices: One-term Controller Steve Westly, whose primary qualification for governor is that he's so fabulously rich he can pay for his own campaign ($34 million as of last week), and two-term Treasurer Phil Angelides, who's also wealthy, but not quite in Westly's league. Angelides has been kept in the game by a developer pal's $9-million largesse.
You get the idea: In big-time politics these days, it's all about the money and who's got it.
The candidates need the money, they'll tell you, to "get out our message" — shamelessly delivered, too often, in attack ads.
Mark DiCamillio, director of the nonpartisan Field Poll, says the recent deluge of negative ads has kept the number of undecided voters at a historic high this close to a gubernatorial primary: 26% in a survey he completed last Wednesday. He suspects the only decision being made by many people is that they're not going to vote for either candidate.
Westly and Angelides are sloshing through the mud neck and neck: 35% to 34%, respectively.
Vicious ads return us to Feinstein — and why she also didn't run for governor back in 1998, forever altering state history. (She had run in 1990, losing narrowly to Republican Pete Wilson.)
Feinstein had been smacked by a dirty Davis ad while winning a 1992 Senate primary.
Then, in her 1994 Senate reelection, she barely survived a relentless shelling by Republican Michael Huffington — another self-financed rich guy. Her wounds still hadn't healed in 1998 and she flinched.
Too bad for Democrats and California. Lt. Gov. Davis would have bowed out, I'm sure, and she would have won easily. Instead, Davis was elected.
A Gov. Feinstein would have been quicker and firmer in handling the energy crisis, and wouldn't have spent the state into debt. She would have embarked on an infrastructure rebuilding program years ago.
But there's also another reason why Feinstein is at fault, all facetiousness aside.
Leading up to 1998, she vacillated so long that it blocked out another potentially terrific governor: Leon Panetta.