The White House has kept hands off the circus in California up to now, when it seemed the province of crackpots. It doesn't matter: What they didn't do was shut the fringe down—as centrist Democrats are always so desperate to shut Democratic fringes down, to keep them from taking any ideological risks at all. The Republican command center simply let the game take its course. The right-wing extremists set up the pitch. A "centrist" was able to step in to hit it out of the park. Presto: the political playing field in California has shifted.
George Bush will probably have the home-field advantage here in 2004. And it never would have happened if the freaks hadn't taken the original risk. If the center had led, the Republicans would have been waiting to try to replace Gray Davis until 2006.