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McClintock Key to Democratic Victory in California
by Bob Chandra
02 September 2003Tom McClintock

A Democratic plot to boost Tom McClintock’s candidacy at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s expense has recently come to light.

On paper, the recall election should be a cakewalk for California Republicans.  A cursory analysis reveals a governor with an approval rating below Richard Nixon at his low point.  The only serious Democrat candidate is the state’s uninspiring lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, who unquestioningly followed Governor Davis through his mishaps with the budget and energy crisis.  It should be a breeze for Republicans, right?  Think again.  Democrats are euphoric over Tom McClintock’s intransigence in continuing his long-shot bid for governor.  This allows Democrats to divide and conquer their way into office.  Democrats are attempting to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and Tom McClintock is an essential part of their game plan.

For starters, Democrats know McClintock cannot win.  They know that he has ran for statewide office twice before and lost both times.  McClintock’s problem is not so much that he’s unknown but that Californians know about him and have rejected his candidacy time and again.  Knowing this, a Democrat plot to boost McClintock’s candidacy at Schwarzenegger’s expense has already surfaced.  According to the Sacramento Bee’s Daniel Weintraub, “Ever since Cruz Bustamante entered the race, it's been assumed that California's Indian tribes were going to pool their money and do independent expenditures on his behalf, expensive ads that get around the $21,000 limit on contributions. Now I am hearing rumblings that the Indians might think about helping Cruz in a more creative way as well. If they spent, say, $4 million on behalf of state Sen. Tom McClintock, the most conservative Republican in the race, they might pump McClintock's numbers up while hurting Arnold and not harming Cruz a bit. Remember, Cruz needs a split GOP vote to win. That would be one way to get it.”  The reliably Democratic Indian tribes, loyal to Bustamante, would essentially throw their weight behind McClintock to chip away at the support of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the GOP front-runner.  The Democrat strategy with regard to Tom McClintock is: “If you know you can beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

McClintock is unfazed by this conniving scheme and is more than happy to play along.  His actions suggest that he’s willing to make allies with loyal Democratic groups under the logic, the enemy of my enemy (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is my friend.  On August 28th, McClintock and Bustamante went together before the California Nations Indian Gaming Association to pledge their support.  Needless to say, money will follow.  Whether McClintock knows it or not, he’s being used by the Left.  If Democrat allies can keep McClintock in the game, they can put a cap on Arnold’s support.  A recent Los Angeles Times poll shows Bustamante with 35% of the vote and McClintock with 12%.  The poll indicates that McClintock will lose decisively but more importantly, his vote will ensure that GOP front-runner Schwarzenegger loses as well.   

It doesn’t have to be this way.  McClintock could see the light and do what’s best for the party – as Bill Simon did by bowing out of the race.  Other than his new Democratic support, the picture continues to grow bleaker for McClintock.  The Washington Post and Sacramento Bee are reporting that there will be a record turnout for the recall election.  This invalidates the early calculus by McClintock supporters - that in a low turnout election, grassroots could carry the day.  Further, the base is growing more familiar with Schwarzenegger’s conservatism – Arnold came out against partial-birth abortion, against gay marriage, and for a constitutional spending cap. 

There comes a time when personal ambition must be set aside and self-affirming but false justifications for one’s candidacy need to be reexamined.  If McClintock stays in the California Senate, and assuming Arnold wins the governorship, he and Arnold could play the good-cop/bad-cop routine to perfection, mirroring President Bush and Tom Delay’s efforts at the national level.  Additionally, McClintock may be well positioned to challenge Barbara Boxer in next year’s US Senate race.  However, if McClintock persists with his spoiler campaign and throws the election to Bustamante, it is doubtful he will have any political capital for a future race. 

But assuming things stay the way they are, with McClintock’s help, Bustamante and the Democrats may well pull off an upset of a lifetime on Election Day.

Bob Chandra is a Bay Area Republican activist and writer

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