September 6, 2004


California dreaming of a Kerry victory (FRASER NELSON, 9/06/04, The Scotsman)

AS SOON as the traffic lights turn red on the long road into San Francisco from the airport, a platoon of beggars converges on drivers. Without any pretence about washing car windows, they had written out a novel pitch for cash: "Hungry, Homeless, Bush Out."

This is a fairly accurate welcome to the political climate of the city. I had come to write a portrait of an America which was evenly and agonisingly split between George Bush and John Kerry - and had started in the wrong place.

From homeless to hoi-polloi, the city seems united in its loathing for the president. The first Californian I stopped to ask about his voting intentions responded by reaching inside his shirt and producing a dog-tag engraved with his choice: Kerry-Edwards 2004. "Do you see this? I work with 200 men; we’re all wearing one," said Stephen Schwartz. "And do you know why? Because George Bush is the anti-Christ. He’s in cahoots with big business, he’s started a war on a damned lie, and we’re going to crucify him."

Mr Schwartz works for Amtrak, a railway company he believes Mr Bush intends to privatise.

His colleagues are preparing for battle and bracing their friends, family and distant cousins for operation Eject Bush 2004.

"I am so fired up," he says. "I haven’t felt this way for years. We’re going to take our country back again. It’s time for the people."

But only a certain type of people, and this, it transpires, is what the United States presidential election is all about.

Mr Schwartz, a trade union leader, has a clear idea of his enemy: Hicksville allied with Wall Street. "There are these, these," he struggles to find the word, "Christians. Mad, mad Christians. And they vote for Bush because they’re just like him."

Mr. Bush has already closed to nearly within the margin of error in CA and could well parlay Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain into a victory there.

Republican Candidates Count On Schwarzenegger's Popularity (George Skelton, September 6, 2004, LA Times)

Let's tote up the score for some California politicians at the Republican National Convention.

On a 10-point scale:

• Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a 9.

The celebrity governor enhanced his national image as a political figure with a mostly upbeat, skillfully delivered prime-time speech. It would have been perfect if he'd muted some of the partisan tone and dropped the macho line about economic critics being "girlie-men."

• Give U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones a 6.

His overall, underfunded campaign has been a 3. In New York, White House and Senate political operatives introduced him to fresh sources of campaign cash. He also smartly hustled to be interviewed by California radio newscasters denied access to Schwarzenegger.

• GOP legislative candidates notched a 7 without trying.

They benefited, paradoxically, because President Bush probably didn't help himself much in California. If Bush had put California "in play," then Sen. John Kerry would have poured millions into the state, aiding all Democratic candidates. Without Bush-Kerry competition, Republicans hold the trump card: a popular governor.

The other races can't be in play but the presidential not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2004 8:24 AM

GOP candidates in California can position themselves in the middle. All the things you like about him, we're for and all the things you don't like about him, we're Californians first. You are concerned about terror, so are we. Can the same thing be said about Barbara Boxer and John Burton? You want fiscal responsibility. So do we? Just like Arnold. Does the party of Willie Brown want fiscal responsibility and honest government?

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 8:51 AM

What do you think the odds are of a British journalist landing in San Francisco, and the first Californian he randomly talks to is a trade union organizer for Amtrak (which doesn't serve San Francisco)?

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 6, 2004 11:25 AM

But Mr Schwartz could give the challenger a great campaign slogan: "John Kerry -- He'll Make the Trains Run On Time"

Uh, wait, maybe that's not such a great campaign slogan after all...

Posted by: John at September 6, 2004 12:28 PM

Orrin must be dreaming if he thinks that George W. Bush can win California. There is no way in hell!

Posted by: Vince at September 6, 2004 2:31 PM

Actually, apart from about 4 counties, CA is really pretty conservative. Nationalize the race, and Boxer is in trouble (especially if Kerry is perceived as totally dead on Nov. 2).

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 6, 2004 6:06 PM


"You cannot hope
To bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.
But seeing what
The man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to."

Posted by: Peter B at September 6, 2004 7:37 PM

Jim, you are probably right; however, those four counties are also the most populous, and I am not so sure it is just four.

Posted by: Vince at September 7, 2004 2:01 AM