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Doug Gamble- Contributor

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

After Oct. 7: Then what?
If Schwarzenegger bombs as governor, look for a full-scale GOP civil war
[Doug Gamble] 10/1/03

In case you hadn't heard the late-breaking news, Republican gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger just picked up the endorsements of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Attempts by a Schwarzenegger psychic to contact Mother Teresa in the afterlife for her endorsement are on going.

I'm being facetious, barely, but if Gov. Gray Davis is recalled one week from today, it looks increasingly like his replacement will be the movie star, notwithstanding the insistence of a certain state assemblyman on giving Republicans a choice.

Assuming a Schwarzenegger victory, what would it mean to the state and to the Democratic and Republican parties?

The state: A major impact, probably sooner than later, would be a tax increase, especially since Schwarzenegger has been loath to identify any potential budget cuts and considering the history of the advisers he'll rely on for governing. Only a win by Tom (Over My Dead Body) McClintock would keep the state government's hand from plunging deeper into our pockets, and that is exceedingly unlikely.

One thing it will not mean to California is another recall election anytime soon, despite Cruz Bustamante's warning that if a Republican becomes governor there will be an immediate effort to oust him. Californians are too weary of the recall process to provide enough signatures for another election in the near future, plus they're fair enough that the inclination, even among Democrats, would be to give the new governor a chance.

A positive tangible of the recall is that more Californians have been educated about state politics than ever before in history. Many who had barely known that Sacramento was the state capital found themselves actually caring about a myriad of issues that had previously been far off their radar. Perhaps this will inspire something that has been sorely missing over the years - consistent TV news coverage of Sacramento politics, the lack of which has been a disgrace in the most populous and arguably most important state.

The Democrats: A Schwarzenegger victory would be bad news for any future gubernatorial hopes of Bustamante and good news for Bill Lockyer. The attorney general, who has been planning all along to run in 2006, would have the advantage of one potential major opponent for the nomination coming off an uninspired and failed campaign. The shrewd and media-savvy Lockyer would have to be considered the Democratic front-runner.

The Republicans: Beyond general satisfaction at capturing the governor's office, the outlook for Republicans is more complex because of what the Schwarzenegger-McClintock battle has done to rile conservatives. Bitterness may linger among many conservatives angry at the heat directed at their hero from within. And if Schwarzenegger bombs in office, look for a full-scale civil war.

By defying party bosses, McClintock could become the political equivalent of the late Julia Phillips, the Hollywood producer whose alienation of show business big shots and the price she paid for it were chronicled in her book, You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again. I expect McClintock will continue for a while to eat lunch in Sacramento, and liberals for breakfast, but there are undoubtedly party honchos who want him to pay a heavy price for the defiance he has demonstrated.

He will undoubtedly face a challenge for renomination when trying to defend his state Senate seat. Also, the future of the conservative wing of California's Republican Party will be very much in doubt.

This recall has included such surprises as its benefactor, Rep. Darrell Issa, dropping out, Schwarzenegger getting in and three judges temporarily derailing it. Despite what polls show, no one should be shocked if there is one more big surprise - Davis beating the recall and the campaigns of all his would-be successors rendered moot.

Doug Gamble has written for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and other prominent Republicans.

Copyright 2003 Doug Gamble




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