California Democrat Barbara Boxer has been charmed in her three previous runs for the Senate.
Her first race was in 1992, nicknamed the Year of the Woman, when female voters in California made their presence felt after the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Her re-election campaign six years later came as California’s economy sailed along and as voters felt more optimistic about the country’s direction than just about any other time in the last quarter century.
Her third Senate campaign took place as the ranks of Democrats soared in California and in the midst of growing anger and pessimism about the war in Iraq. Boxer was one of the war’s leading critics.
No politician wins three terms to the U.S. Senate without a strong resume and campaign presence, but it’s also clear that Boxer has run under favorable political conditions that bear little resemblance to what she faces this year.
One of the Senate’s most liberal members finds herself battling for a fourth term amid a struggling economy, a general anti-incumbent mood and persistent Republican criticism of government spending.
Another potential vulnerability for Boxer: Republican challenger Carly Fiorina is her first female challenger in a Senate race, muting a potential advantage in a state where women comprise the majority of the electorate.
Barbara Boxer is yesterday’s news.