Will California Republicans be better off after this recall? Aw, doggone it, Ramesh, why’d you have to go and spoil all the fun by asking a question like that?
Consider the possible outcomes:
1. Davis squeaks by, remaining in office. But after defeating the recall drive, he’d be in a stronger position. California Republicans? Worse off.
2. Bustamante wins–and sets himself up to run again in three years, just as Steve Hayward suggests below. California Republicans? Once again, worse off.
3. Der Arnold wins–and raises taxes. At this point the leading Republican in the state would be pro-tax and pro-choice and pro-everything else that Reagan Republicans oppose. Maybe Arnold would be able to register a whole slew of new Republicans, but what would it matter?
4. Only if McClintock wins or Arnold wins and stares down every attempt to raise taxes that comes at him would California Republicans be better off. The first possibility, a McClintock victory, just ain’t in the books. Even though we face a mere four weeks until the election, it’ll cost upward of $10 million to mount a creditable campaign. I don’t know a soul in California politics who expects McClintock to raise more than $3 million. The second possibility, that Arnold would set his feet in concrete, refusing to raise taxes despite intense pressures from the legislature, interest groups, and the press–well, I suppose it could happen. And I’d better tell you that I have colleagues here at the Hoover Institution who are advising Arnold on economic strategy and are convinced it would* happen. But if Arnold won’t take the no-tax pledge now, during the campaign, why should anybody expect him to take it after he’s elected?
Very, very smart and savvy people–my buddy Hugh Hewitt comes to mind–not only support Arnold but feel real enthusiasm for the man. Me? He could still capture my heart by supporting a constitutional amendment to limit state spending–an adaptation of Reagan’s 1973 Proposition One of the 1992 Colorado measure. But I don’t intend to hold my breath.