It's hard not to get caught up in Carly Fiorina's passion and charisma, hard not to be impressed with her personal business achievement and acumen. She's smart, feisty and energetic.

But California's Republican nominee for U.S. Senate ought to be thoughtful, soft-spoken Tom Campbell, the candidate most ready to step right into the job -- and the one best able to get there by first defeating three-term incumbent Barbara Boxer in November.

Campbell will hit the ground running because, as a former state legislator and five-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he understands how the game is played. As a law professor and dean of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, he knows how to uphold conservative policy ideals in an intellectually daunting but less-than-conservative environment. His resume is that of a pragmatist willing to do what it takes -- as painful as certain corrective measures may be -- to help steer the nation back toward fiscal sanity. The National Taxpayers Union Foundation would probably agree: It named him most frugal member of the 102nd Congress. A self-described "cheapskate" who spent a year overseeing the state Department of Finance, he has refused to play along with the silly gimmickry of the no-new-taxes pledge.

And, as a social moderate, Campbell won't fall into the campaign trap that Boxer has so effectively utilized in past elections. With Campbell as nominee, the November election will be about the things that matter most to Californians today: deficit reduction, jobs, immigration reform, energy and water. Not same-sex marriage, gun control or abortion rights -- the wedge issues that Boxer expertly uses every six years to fend off challengers.

Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, takes similar positions on fiscal policy, and her real-world experience really means something, even if her record is somewhat mixed. But she'll face a period of on-the-job training that Campbell can largely skip.

Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a tea party conservative polling a distant third in this race, would lose resoundingly to Boxer were he to somehow finish first in the primary.

Campbell is practical, realistic and astute. He is Republicans' best choice for U.S. Senate.