Republicans say Cox also considered a run against first-term Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who was long considered easy prey. Cox didn't step forward, and Matt Fong found himself trounced by Boxer earlier this month. In the race to replace Gingrich as Speaker, Cox initially challenged Representative Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana) with gusto, but he abandoned his 48-hour campaign just as the battle intensified. He again claimed lamely that he quit for "party unity," ignoring the fact that Livingston would have crushed him.
More important, a hard-fought campaign for Speaker would have exposed Cox's decade-long ruse as a hardcore conservative, a man who was acceptable to the party's dominant Right wing. The onetime $500,000-per-year corporate lawyer's passion has never veered from reducing taxes on millionaires and expanding federal loopholes for multinational corporations.
Unlike the rest of the Orange County Republican Party's leadership (picture Tom Fuentes and the Reverend Lou Sheldon), Cox shies away from inflammatory social issues. He has, for example, quietly maintained that the federal government should not outlaw abortions. Cox is already despised by California's progressives for his friendliness to big business; upon closer inspection, social conservatives are likely to see Cox much as they saw the socially moderate but spineless Fong: contemptuously.