The prairie fire of a political movement known as the Taxed Enough Already party has changed the politics in nearly every state this year.

I say “nearly” because the last stand for RINOS, for what we called “country club Republicans” in the Goldwater days, for the “we’re not conservatives,” “Democrat lite” Republicans – is here in California.

The major candidates for governor (Arnold is at long last term limited out) are former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner. Neither candidate is generating grass-roots, tea-party enthusiasm.

Whitman has a compelling success story in creating jobs in private business. Her political story is less stellar. She didn’t bother to vote until recently.

As a candidate, she rules out across-the-board tax cuts in a state with some of the highest tax rates in the country – a state that is now experiencing (as Art Laffer would predict) falling tax revenues.

Whitman’s reaction to the Arizona immigration law was a vow to veto any such legislation if elected governor. She has supported “comprehensive” immigration reform – code for illegal-alien amnesty.

Whitman backed the federal TARP bailout bill. As a member of Goldman Sachs’ board of directors in 2001 and 2002, she benefited from financial investments now banned.

She professes an admiration (“I got to know him very well”) for Van Jones after she met him on an Arctic cruise dedicated to showing the passengers the ravages of “global warming.” Apparently, as a result of Mr. Jones’ influence, Whitman will not support repeal of California’s job-killing state “cap and trade” law.

Whitman’s appeal for votes (her $59 million donation to herself has drenched the state in TV and radio ads) in the California Republican primary June 8 comes down to two themes: “I know how to create jobs” and “The other candidate is no conservative, either.”

Whitman, by every account I’ve seen, was a superb private business executive. Her collaborative work practices applied during a tech boom inspired creative non-union employees to create wealth for more people over a shorter period of time than has rarely been seen in history. None of this experience will translate to success running California state government.

The executive branch of California state government is a bloated, civil-service protected, unionized political powerhouse that is more used to telling the governor and legislature what to do (raise taxes and spending) than collaborate. Arnold found this out the hard way.

Standing up to the public-employee unions, repealing onerous job-killing regulations and eliminating or reducing the regulatory bureaucracy is a must do first step in restoring the “Golden State.” Beyond generalizations (“we need to cut 40,000 jobs from the state workforce”), Whitman has produced no specifics on how she will accomplish this.

She appears to be aware of the problem. When asked in a recent interview “If you were starting eBay today, which state would you use?” Whitman’s answer: “Probably Texas.”

Steve Poizner is running second in the race. Down 50 points two weeks ago, one poll has Poizner within 10 points now.

He is also a tech-boom, multi-millionaire success story. Poizner is also the only Republican statewide office holder in California. But Whitman is pounding him now for not being a conservative either.

Poizner ran (and lost) a liberal campaign for a state Assembly seat. He endorsed and contributed $10,000 to Al Gore for president. He’s accused of supporting a weakening of Proposition 13 property tax limits, of opposing the 2003 Republican backed budget cuts and of spending $2 million in new cars for his agency.

Nonetheless, California conservative icon Rep. Tom McClintock has made radio and TV ads praising Poizner and attacking Whitman.

But as California becomes the “Greece” of the U.S. with the state caught between the rock of a strangled economy and the hard place of implacable public sector unions who won’t give up a penny in wages or benefits, does Poizner have the proposals which recognize the problem and offer solutions?

Not really. Much like the recent faux campaign in the U.K. in which all three parties refused to tell British voters that Margaret Thatcher was right when she said socialism would fail when it ran out of other peoples’ money, the campaign for governor of California is some kind of opera where all the candidates avoid mentioning the coming calamity of certain state government insolvency.

Unlike the straight talk and decisive actions of real Reagan conservatives like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the California governor’s race is a masquerade of RINOS.

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