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.