September 30, 2003


Recall race turns into head-to-head brawl (Martin Kasindorf, 9/30/2003 , USA TODAY)

Gov. Gray Davis and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger are slamming away at each other as if no other candidates exist in the final seven days of California's recall election.

Schwarzenegger, 56, the front-running Republican to replace the Democratic incumbent if voters recall him next Tuesday, fires up crowds with calls to "terminate" Davis. The Hollywood star no longer mentions state Sen. Tom McClintock, his Republican rival.

For Davis, 60, it's also mano a mano combat. He had strongly hinted that he would endorse Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, 50, by this past Saturday as a fallback choice for Democrats if he is ousted. But now, Davis is ignoring the fading Bustamante and saying the only options for Democrats are himself or a Republican takeover.

In targeting each other, Davis and Schwarzenegger are ending the offbeat campaign with yet one more oddity. Technically, they aren't opponents on the ballot next Tuesday. Davis is alone on the ballot's first question, which is whether he should stay or go. He needs 50%, plus one vote, to stay in office. Schwarzenegger is one of 135 candidates listed on the second question. If Davis loses, the replacement candidate with the most votes becomes governor.

This is too clever by half on the part of the Governor. The key to the race for him was to disappear from view and hope voters forgot why they hated him, then turn out the party base with organization and money. Turning into Gray Davis vs. Arnold is a disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2003 12:02 PM

Given the latest polls, where Arnold is well ahead of Busty and McClintock, why would Arnold talk about them? He is correct to go after Davis to ensure Davis is ousted on the first vote. Agree that Davis is stupid to go head to head with Arnold (what happened to the VRWC theory of the recall Davis was peddling)?

Posted by: AWW at September 30, 2003 12:30 PM

Davis has had too much success with negative campaigning to resist counterattacking when Arnold went after him. I suspect that was in fact Schwarzenegger's plan; he was, after all, known for winning bodybuilding competitions not just by his phyisique but by playing headgames with his opponents.

But, of course, Gray is just reinforcing the message that the choice is between himself and Arnold.

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 30, 2003 12:38 PM

If Grayout really wanted to save CA for the dems, just resign and put Bustamante in.

No recall, no repubs, saves a lot of money.

And doesn't he get to keep his campaign warchest?

Posted by: Sandy P. at September 30, 2003 12:48 PM

Let's not forget that the Friday before election day is the time for good Democrats to let loose a few stink bombs against their opponents. Anyone want to bet on what juicy secrets Gray's opposition research teams have come up with? Looks like they think they've got a good one on Arnold.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 30, 2003 1:15 PM

Sandy P.,

Under the pertinent Cal. law the recall goes forward whether Davis resigns or not. It would go forward if he shed his mortal coil today - and if a majority of those voting are in favor of his recall then whoever receives the highest number of votes on Part 2 of the ballot is governor - no runoffs.

What is interesting is that the formal transfer of power is not delineated - as soon as the Secretary of State certifies the results Davis is out. I am curious concerning the mechanism that will get all his staff appointees out of their offices. I wonder if they will be showing the same level of class as the departing Clintonites did.

Arnold might want to take a priest knowledgeable in rites of exorcism with him for the first day or so.

Posted by: RDB at September 30, 2003 1:16 PM

There are only three possible arguments against a recall: the incumbent has done a good job; recalls are inherently bad; the person who will become governor is not qualified.

Davis and his supporters have not made any serious attempt at the first argument. They have put the emphasized the second argument, trying to build on Democrat anger from the 2000 election. This hasn't caught on because so many Californians -- a majority -- think Davis has done a miserable job. "We have met the enemy and he is us" is all well and good, but a majority of Californians know that a majority of Californians are not members of the VRWC.

Which leaves argument number 3. This is where Bustamente screwed Davis, because the entry of a Latino Lieutenant Governor popular with the party into the race ended Davis' ability to argue that all the candidates running on question 2 were inadequate. (The irony is that Bustamente is inadequate.)

This shows why the debate was so important. Debates graphically put the challenger on a level with the incumbent. Here, it made the idea of Arnold as governor conceivable, even though Davis was not present. Californians becoming more comfortable with that thought, even if they won't vote for him, reduces the vehemence of opposition to the recall.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 30, 2003 2:58 PM

It doesn't matter what type of last-minute dirty trick Davis might be holding back for Schwarzenegger -- after the public got a look at the recall candidates at last week's debate, nothing, and I mean nothing, could be as bad for Davis' hopes of winning the recall vote as this. Gray might as well pull the Allied Van Lines truck up to the big house in Sacremento right now...

Posted by: John at September 30, 2003 3:14 PM

A theme now making the blog rounds is that Busty might finish behind McClintock. If that happens watch the conservatives jump out and say McClintock could have won without Arnold in race and they will be all over any perceived errors Arnold makes

Posted by: AWW at September 30, 2003 4:20 PM