Thursday, August 28 2003
CALIFORNIA RECALL: Recent polls have been all over the place on this race, and they will likely continue to be as pollsters are going to be more or less guessing at what turnout model is appropriate for October's election. RCP sees little chance Bustamante will be able to beat Arnold in a head to head match up, which is where we think the second part of the recall election appears to be heading. Simon's withdrawal on Saturday was a significant boost for Schwarzenegger and it continues the process of focusing the Republican vote. Expect Ueberroth to follow suit some time in the next several weeks. This will leave McClintock and Schwarzenegger as the sole GOP candidates left in the field, as we feel it is unlikely McClintock will withdraw.

Bustamante is going to attract the core Democratic vote, as well as a sizable vote from the Latino community, which should give him around 35%. His problem is where does he go for votes after that? As much as Davis and many on the Democrats' side want to play up the recall as a partisan power grab by the GOP, they are wrong to underestimate the genuine level of disgust and frustration with the management of the states' affairs in Sacramento by people all across the political spectrum, not just Republicans. There are going to be a significant number of moderate Democrats and independents who would typically be predisposed to vote for the Democratic candidate, but in this election they may take a pass, especially if they see Bustamante as merely a continuation of the current failed policies.

Bustamante's best chance is to hope McClintock can hang around and continue to pick up support from the state's conservatives, siphoning votes away form Arnold. With Schwarzenegger's liberal positions on most social issues, and the potential for actions and comments from his colorful past to blow up into a mini-scandal at any time, this is not an unreasonable possibility. However, even if McClintock stays strong until the very end we think Arnold will still be able to pull out a victory, as we suspect he will attract a significant number of non-typical voters, much like Jesse Ventura did in Minnesota. If McClintock fades and the race becomes a clear two-way battle between Cruz and Arnold, Schwarzenegger will win big and it is even possible he will get over 50% of the vote.

Of course all of the above is irrelevant if over 50% of the voters do not vote to recall Governor Davis. All of the polls except one (the LA Times) have shown 54%-69% majorities willing to vote for the ouster of Gray Davis. Our current RCP average which includes the very pro-Democratic LA Times poll still shows support for recall running 57.3%-38.7%. While the evidence continues to remain strong that Davis will indeed be recalled, we think the Democrats have a better shot at getting that pro-Davis recall number below 50.0% than they do of having Cruz out duel Arnold. So expect the Clintonesque strategy of trying to turn this into a partisan food fight to continue, especially as we get closer to October 7 and the Democrats realize Davis, and not Bustamante, might be their only shot to hold on to power.

Bottom line, barring some nugget from Arnold's past blowing up into a huge scandal, it is highly likely that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be the next Governor of California.
J. McIntyre 7:28 am

Tuesday, August 26 2003
HUGH, AHNOLD, & THE POLLS: Right after John's segment last night, Hugh Hewitt interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger on his radio program. You can listen to the full interview here.

Meanwhile, Dan Weintraub reports on two private polls - one Democrat and one Republican - in the California recall race. The Dem poll has Bustamante up 8 points, while the Republican poll has Schwarzenegger ahead - but only after Simon's votes are redistributed to the voters' second choice.

We agree with John Fund's advice this morning: it's smart to be very wary of the polls in this race. However, from everything I can gather I think the RCP average puts the race pretty darn close to where it realistically is, which is to say I suspect Bustamante has about a 4-point lead right now. Arnold should pick up two or three points from Simon leaving him neck and neck with Cruz. McClintock & Ueberroth are pulling around 10-15% combined.

If McClintock and Ueberroth stay in the race it looks like it's going to be very close, with Arnold perhaps coming up a little short in the end. And at this point you can't count out Davis, who still has a chance (albeit an improbable one) to spoil everybody's fun by mustering up enough support to beat the recall. But this is about as fluid a race as can be imagined and things will change by the hour as we get down into crunch time. Very exciting stuff.

BIG DAY FOR BUSH: President Bush will be at the national convention of the American Legion in St. Louis today speaking about the situation in Iraq and the war on terror. It will be a pivotal speech, and hopefully a spirited defense of his administration's policy.

Bush & Co. really need to regain the momentum of the debate on Iraq, something they've lost over the first few weeks of August. The blaring headlines in this morning's Washington Post (picked up by scored of other papers around the country, by the way) continues the theme: "U.S. Postwar Deaths Now Equal Iraq War Fatalities." This is one of those media-fabricated milestones that's blown up to signal something that's supposedly important, even though it really doesn't mean anything other than we're still at war.

Nevertheless, if the Bush administration wants to win the battle over public opinion on Iraq, its members need to be out actively defending the policy every single day. They can't skip days or get distracted by other concerns for a week or more, otherwise the steady flow of negative media stories and relentless partisan pounding from Democrats will start to take effect and turn public opinion - just as we've seen.

From now until election day next November the Bush administration is going to be swimming upstream on Iraq. They're just going to have to be disciplined enough to wake up every morning and swim as hard as they can. - T. Bevan 8:49 am

Monday, August 25 2003
A PACKAGE DEAL FOR THE UN: So here's the situation: we would like to internationalize the force occupying Iraq but we don't want to give up control. We can continue to try and internationalize the force on our own, getting dribs and drabs of soldiers from various countries around the globe, or we can go to the UN and get a resolution that will open the floodgates (at least theoretically) and get some blue helmets on the streets of Baghdad in fairly short order.

Just a few hundred miles west, we're trying to salvage what's left of the the road map and put the Israelis and the Palestinians back on a path to peace. I've always thought this was a task that would be made a whole lot easier by using international peacekeeping forces, but given the rampant anti-Semitism coming out of the UN in recent years I can certainly understand Israel's misgivings about the real efficacy of such a force.

Still, we're at a point now where success in Iraq and success on the Israeli-Palestinian issue have become vital components of the overall war on terror. Both carry massive practical and symbolic implications. The Bush administration is well aware of the importance of both tasks, which is why they didn't hesitate in throwing themselves headfirst into trying to solve the Palestinian question and have been working overtime to find a solution.

Perhaps now there is a chance. We need to leverage the leadership we've shown on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the desire of the international community to develop a workable solution there with our commitment in Iraq. Why not go to the UN and say, "If you're truly serious about solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about helping the people of Iraq, then we'd like your help in both places."

And in return for a U.N. commitment to put 50,000 peacekeeping troops in Baghdad and 25,000 in Gaza and the West Bank as soon as possible, we should be willing to barter away some of the control of both operations. Let me reiterate, I say some control because there are certain limits to what would be feasible. We certainly would never relinquish command of any of our forces in Baghdad, nor would Israel ever acquiesce to allowing the U.N. to have total control over peacekeeping forces in Gaza and the West Bank.

I don't think hammering out the details of a package deal with the United Nations would be easy. But by linking the two issues and throwing them back at the U.N., it could possibly help accomplish some very vital objectives and usher in a new era of cooperation between the U.S. and the U.N. in fighting the war on terror.

OLDIES BUT GOODIES: The article is a week old, but I just happened to read it over the weekend and couldn't let it pass. Garrison Keillor, the man dubbed by the Powerline boys as "Minnesota's Angry Humorist", tells readers of Time magazine that politics is serious business not suitable for uncivil celebrity loudmouths like Jesse Ventura or Arnold Schwarzenegger:

"Politics isn't a story; it's a process. It's not about confrontation and threat and revenge and triumph. It's mostly about civility, starting with the driver's license bureau of the Commissariat of Motor Vehicles and on up to the folks in the black robes. Most men and women in politics are there because they genuinely like people and want to do good things on their behalf. It's hard work, and fury isn't the best motivation. You have to sit through the meetings, listen to other people and say your piece and be civil about it. Anger and loathing are losing hands in politics."

For most of you who follow politics this may strike you, as it did me, pretty interesting advice coming from a man who wrote two of the most vile, vicious hit pieces in history against Norm Coleman after last year's election.

Here's a taste of Keillor's "civility" from Salon on November 7, 2002. After making a slimy, unsubstantiated claim that Coleman was unfaithful to his wife, Keillor wrote:

"It was a dreadful low moment for the Minnesota voters. To choose Coleman over Walter Mondale is one of those dumb low-rent mistakes, like going to a great steakhouse and ordering the tuna sandwich. But I don't envy someone who's sold his soul.

He's condemned to a life of small arrangements. There will be no passion, no joy, no heroism, for him. He is a hollow man. The next six years are not going to be kind to Norm."

Keillor followed this up with a column one week later in the same venerable publication calling Coleman "evil", an "empty suit", an "opportunist", a "cheap fraud", a "cynic", a "false knight", and a "contrivance." He also wrote that:

Ordinarily, there should be a period of good feeling after an election, of relief, or relaxation, when we join hands and become one people again, but Norman Coleman doesn't deserve any Democrat's hand. We had come together as one people already -- the precious gift of 9/11 -- and he used that as a campaign ploy against us, suggesting that Democrats are unpatriotic, and he is not to be forgiven for it.

So America, be sure to take it from one of the country's leading hypocrites (Did I say that? I mean humorists...), politics isn't about "confrontation and threat and revenge" it's about "civility." - T. Bevan 9:03 am

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