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Schwarzenegger Descending
Shades of Gray...

[Doug Gamble] 7/27/05

From a long-range, strategic point of view, did California Republicans make a mistake in backing the 2003 recall of Governor Gray Davis? The more Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger looks like he’s starring in a remake of “The Incredible Shrinking Man” the more it appears that they may have.

Perhaps it would have been preferable for Republicans to let Davis twist slowly in the wind until the end of his second term, continuing on in his passive, caretaker fashion and piling up new records for incompetence and real or perceived corruption. It’s inconceivable there was anything he could do in his final four years to improve his image.

Doug Gamble

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]

Then, after he had alienated many independents and even some Democrats as the most hapless governor in recent memory, a Republican would have had a good shot at winning a full term in 2006. I believe Bill Simon, for example, who lost to Davis by a mere five points in 2002, could have staged an “I told you so” comeback against any Democrat next year, given the taint that Davis would have left on the party.

But if Schwarzenegger proves to be a disaster it could send the GOP back to the gubernatorial wilderness indefinitely. As the old saying goes, the bigger they are the harder they fall, and that seems to be the current reality affecting the governor.

For most of this year he has been operating under the cloud of Murphy’s Law -- “If anything can go wrong it will” -- and, as they used to say on rock and roll radio, the hits just keep on coming. The latest blow is a judge’s ruling that Schwarzenegger’s redistricting plan must be dropped from the ballot in November’s special election because supporters used two versions of it in the qualifying process.

Having earlier backed away from his proposal to overhaul public employee pensions, the governor has seen the four wheels originally driving his “Year of Reform” Hummer cut down to two, a measure dealing with teacher tenure and a complicated state spending plan.

This latest setback comes on the heels of a mini-scandal that resulted in the governor ending a previously undisclosed multi-million dollar deal with a fitness magazine publisher following conflict of interest accusations. Then there are the polls, where the Public Policy Institute of California has Schwarzenegger’s approval rating at only 34 percent, down from 57 per cent a year ago, with the poll taken before the magazine flap.

Parting company with many of my Republican friends, I believed from the moment he joined the recall election with his ego-driven, gimmicky announcement on Jay Leno’s TV show that Schwarzenegger was less about advancing California’s or the GOP’s interests and more about advancing his own. With no discernable political qualifications for leading America’s most populous state, had he been Arnold Schwarzenegger, certified public accountant, say, instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger, movie star, his candidacy would have been a joke.

The cult of personality that got him elected has not been enough for most Californians to overlook his blunders. If he loses next year the genesis of Schwarzenegger’s downfall might be traced to last December when he bragged about kicking nurses’ butts, foolish bullying that turned off many independents and Democrats he needs for reelection. He’s unlikely to get them back.

It also appears that the emperor has no clothes. Most Californians polled believe the state is on the wrong track, despite Schwarzenegger’s pledge to turn it around, and have caught on to the fact that constant campaigning is not governing.

What could go wrong for the governor next? Well, the current heat wave has Southern California flirting with power outages. If there’s a repeat of the statewide interruptions of 2001, California will go black and Arnold will go Gray. CRO

California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly column for the Orange County Register and

Copyright 2004 Doug Gamble




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