September 30, 2003


Dan Walters: With one week left: Schwarzenegger rising, Davis falling (Dan Walters, September 30, 2003, Sacramento Bee)

This is the situation, as best one can determine:

* Arnold Schwarzenegger's competent, if not inspiring, performance at last week's debate has solidified Republican voters' support and enthusiasm to turn out and vote both for the recall of Davis and Schwarzenegger as his successor. He has now become the prohibitive favorite to win the successor race, should Davis be recalled, as now looks likely.

* Schwarzenegger's rise has contributed to a reversal of fortunes for Davis, who had appeared to be closing the gap on the recall, at least somewhat, prior to the debate. Pundits who thought Davis was the real winner of the debate were dead wrong. Fence-sitting moderates, both Democrats and independents, who disliked Davis but worried about having an acceptable successor, have moved toward voting for the recall, reopening a strong double-digit gap, and for Schwarzenegger. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, published over the weekend, shows the pro-recall side and Schwarzenegger winning, although the poll's methodology may overstate both. Davis' campaign has indirectly acknowledged that its own polls show the recall and Schwarzenegger gaining, and is now going on the attack on several fronts. Davis knows now that his best chance of surviving is to denigrate Schwarzenegger -- a lesser-of-two-evils strategy that has been a Davis hallmark in the past.

* Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has faded badly in the last 14 days because of his almost inexplicable entanglement in an ongoing political and legal flap over his acceptance of millions of dollars in campaign funds from casino-owning Indian tribes. What had seemed to be a Bustamante-Schwarzenegger duel, when the two were tied and Davis appeared doomed, now has morphed into a Davis-Schwarzenegger contest. The sheer size of the tribal involvement, coupled with the Indians' obvious interest in having a governor of their choosing, has become a negative with voters, and it's hurting not only Bustamante but the other major Republican candidate, conservative Sen. Tom McClintock, who also embraced tribal money.

* McClintock had been under great pressure from GOP leaders to drop out, but the latest round of polling indicates that with Schwarzenegger's surge, McClintock is becoming almost a non-factor in this race. And his stubborn insistence on remaining in the race even though it's evident that he cannot win, and his involvement with the casino tribes, may have damaged his political future. His Senate district has been expanded into Santa Barbara County, which is not friendly territory for a conservative Republican, and there is serious local speculation that he may face a moderate GOP challenger in the primary next March.

Why didn't McClintock agree to bail out a week ago in exchange for Schwarzenegger's help in the Senate primary to face the entirely beatable Barbara Boxer? In fact, he could have done it right after the debate: "Tonight proved to me that Arnold has what it takes..."

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2003 10:58 PM


The only thing that I can see is that McClintock is waiting to see what is in the sludge bucket that Davis/Mulholland is going to dump on Arnold. Actually, if he folds as late as Saturday he'll be okay for the Senate race. He may be okay anyway, if Arnold wins big. If Arnold loses and McClintock has not withdrawn then McClintock is dead - a historical footnote. And if Arnold loses then (if he wants it) Arnold goes after Boxer.

As a Californian, getting rid of Boxer is a higher priority to me than getting rid of Davis. I'd prefer both, of course.

Posted by: RDB at September 30, 2003 11:15 PM

Not a Californian, but must agree that getting rid of Boxer has to be a bigger (even national) priority than getting rid of Davis. Will Reps poor recruiting (indifference?) allow Boxer, Osama Mamma, Lincoln, Reid, and whoever represents them in ND sail through. (Boxer and Murray have to be among the two dummest and deleterius legislators in DC; the others are medicocre legislators in RED states.)

Posted by: MG at October 1, 2003 7:09 AM

The candidates don't much matter--remember John East, Jeremiah Denton, Al D'Amato, Arlen Specter, Bob Kasten, etc....

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2003 9:06 AM

If Davis hangs around much longer, I'll be led
to believe that his Ego is much more important
than smashing the Dem's.

Posted by: J.H. at October 1, 2003 10:12 AM