Politics & Policy

Does “Gray” Win?

Di-Fi plays hardball & more.

SACRAMENTO — Republican Peter Ueberroth is running for governor in California’s special recall election. But the wealthy businessman who ran the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles won’t be at the Republican state convention ten days from now. His spokesman has said that such an appearance “would violate Peter’s pledge not to engage in partisan political events during the campaign or as governor. He’s a registered Republican…but he made a commitment to run and govern in a nonpartisan manner.”

Many believe that Ueberroth won’t have to worry about the governing part. Sure, he has an experienced and competent team, but he is not showing any drive. Or, are we misinterpreting a lack of charisma? Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson were not exciting, but each served two terms. Dull Gray Davis won two terms, but he may only serve one and a quarter. Do dull precedents put Ueberroth ahead? If excitement fails, then Arnold Schwarzenegger must be the anti-governor.

Meanwhile, Gray Davis deploys his wife, Sharon. She works to dispel rumors that he is robotic. Gov. Davis can now be occasionally seen with a few hairs out of place. Also new: Davis invokes God. But if you’re not religious, Davis offers the right-wing conspiracy argument.

Gray Davis also has California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, in his arsenal. DiFi is, after all, just what the spin doctor ordered. This week, she is staring directly into the camera and arguing against the recall. These ads will likely have some traction. The recall backers — back in the days when the recall was mostly a California story — only polled a Davis-defends-himself scenario. These new commercials, featuring Sen. Feinstein defending Davis — calling the recall impudent, unwise, and unfair — is likely to firm up the Democratic base.

Among Democrats, black “leaders” already cut a deal to give Cruz Bustamante a pass on his use of the n-word. Sure, not everyone is signed on; African-American civil-rights lawyer Leo Terrell asked listeners to his L.A. radio talk show, “Do you really believe that’s the first time Cruz Bustamante used the word ‘Nigger’?” But Jesse Jackson, Willie Brown, Maxine Waters, Al Sharpton, etc., have already agreed to crank out the African-American vote. They will soon depict Schwarzenegger as an apologist for South African apartheid. They play wedge issues. Expect Jackson & co. to whip up a simultaneous frenzy against Proposition 54, Ward Connerly’s Racial Privacy Initiative. And, expect the increasingly demagogic Cruz Bustamante to attack Schwarzenegger for his support of Proposition 187 (the 1994 ballot measure to prohibit government support of illegal aliens).

Don’t forget about Native Americans. Bustamante flaunts campaign laws to get big bucks from tribal casino operators. How can these Indian givers donate even more? Expect their “independent expenditures” to fund anti-Schwarzenegger ads. As his negatives goes up, the likely turnout goes down.

By the time Democrats are done, Schwarzenegger will be unfairly depicted as a fellow traveler of racists and bigots. This is the way the Dems will draw minorities to the polls. Compared to Schwarzenegger’s rising negatives, McClintock’s negatives will remain limited.

Back to Ueberroth. His Peter Principle is: “When Arnold stumbles, Peter will pick up the pieces.” No wonder the rich Ueberroth plans big ad buys. In contrast, middle-class Tom McClintock has token ad buys. But McClintock gets more free media, although he barely taps the potential. McClintock could be making national news daily.

Speaking of news, the first debate will be held on Wednesday. Schwarzenegger ‘s campaign says he won’t be there. Will the “empty chair” cost him? The Terminator is holding out for the Sept. 17 California Broadcasters Association debate. Would you believe that debate will provide candidates with the questions in advance?

Arnold Schwarzenegger tries to run out the clock. But contradictions characterize Schwarzenegger and his campaign, and political reporters gang-report them. Dems don’t care about any one attack. They hope for a cumulative effect, to destroy Schwarzenegger’s credibility. For example, women’s groups will reprise last week’s disclosure of Schwarzenegger’s long-ago interview with Oui interview. While liberal reporters obsess about social-conservative fallout, shrewd Dems want to gut Schwarzenegger with women. Other Democrat proxies will throw more mud, especially leading up to the Republican state convention in Los Angeles (Sept 12-14).

How, then, can we predict the party will unify behind Schwarzenegger?

Arnold Steinberg is a California-based political strategist.


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