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Doug Gamble- Contributor

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel.

An Instinct For Survival
Does anyone else sense the tide turning for Davis?
[Doug Gamble] 9/4/03

There occasionally comes a time during an election campaign when political observers get a gut feeling, independent of any polls, that change is in the air. My gut tells me that while Gov. Gray Davis is a milquetoast, he may not quite be toast after all.

The polls are no help anyway. Of two recent surveys, one showed 50 percent of voters favoring the recall of the governor while the other said 64 percent want him gone.

This may be one election where instinct means more than polls.

My instinct says a number of Democrats who had intended to dump Davis may be having sober second thoughts as the election draws closer. Much like a man who considers leaving his wife for his mistress only to end up thinking better of it, these Democrats could be concluding they are better off sticking with what they have. A dalliance is one thing; a divorce is another.

If there is in fact a below-the-radar movement back toward the governor, he has to be given some of the credit. Although still displaying a demeanor so awkward it makes Richard Nixon look like Cary Grant, Davis performed much better in two recent town hall meetings than in his much-criticized UCLA speech, with more town halls planned before Oct. 7.

Then there's his tenacity. While Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cruz Bustamante soak up most of the media spotlight, especially the actor, Davis brings a tortoise and hare quality to the race by just slowly plodding along at a steady pace. And we remember from the childhood story what happened to the hare.

He also has been helped by the injection into his campaign of wife Sharon Davis, who has had a higher profile in this race than in any of her husband's previous runs for office. In her round of appearances on the TV talk show circuit she has shown herself to be likable, intelligent and articulate, doing a better job of touting what she claims to be her husband's virtues than he does himself. With Davis seen as a robot, Mrs. Davis puts a human face on the campaign.

And as impossible as it was to imagine just a few weeks ago, a sympathy factor may now be at work. The governor is much like the geeky kid at school who is ridiculed and picked on day after day. It's great sport for a time for those dishing out the punishment, but after a while some of them start to wince and turn away from the sad spectacle. Some Democrats, even those who participated in the pummeling, may have decided enough is enough.

One Democrat I spoke with said he now has most of his anger at Davis out of his system with the governor forced to endure the indignity of the recall process. He's still not sure he will vote against the recall, but he's moving in that direction. I suspect there are others who feel the same way, but how many?

All of this comes before Davis hits the airwaves with TV ads featuring Senator Dianne Feinstein that are bound to influence some wavering Democrats in his favor. And he'll have no shortage of money to pay for them with more than $4 million in his campaign war chest, far more than any of the other recall candidates.

Republicans might be making a mistake by assuming Davis' recall is a foregone conclusion and campaigning as though Bustamante is the prime opponent. They should return to emphasizing why the governor deserves to be ousted in the first place.

True, it would be a stretch to predict that Davis will survive, but I sense the election will be closer than previously anticipated. And should Davis pull it out, he'll have to be considered the all-time Comeback Kid.


This opinion piece first appeared in the Orange County Register

Copyright 2003 Doug Gamble




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