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California Recall Scorecard

Aired August 11, 2003 - 08:35   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Gray Davis still does have the job of governor, but there are a lot of people that want it. There's the old saying at the ballpark that goes, you can't tell the players without a scorecard. And with the California recall, you would likely have a hard time telling the players, the rules or the strategy without some help. So we've gone to an expert. Senior analyst Jeff Greenfield is here to kind of straighten it all out for us.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Well, here we go -- with Saturday's filing deadline, the one thing we know is there won't be any more last-minute surprise candidates. As for the rest of the picture, we haven't sailed through this much uncharted water since they canceled "Gilligan's Island." But we'll try to sort it out.

First, how many candidates are running? Not clear. California officials are still sifting through the paper work. But maybe as many as 155 candidates have met the qualifications, which are slightly easier than joining the book of the month club.

So, what does the field look like now? Major Republicans? Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger you no doubt know. Bill Simon, who lost to Davis last year, state senator Tom McClintock, a conservative, as is Simon.

The independents: author columnist Arianna Huffington, former baseball commissioner and 1984 Olympic czar Peter Ueberroth, and one Democrat, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamente.

How do they stand? Well, as you've been hearing a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows as of now, Governor Davis would be tossed out of office by a 64-29 percent margin. Much bigger in polls than a week ago. That may be the Schwarzenegger tie.

Who would succeed him? As of now, and watch this question, because it isn't a straight, who would you vote for? 42 percent of voters say there's a good chance they'd vote for Arnold. 22 percent say a good chance they'd vote for Bustamente. But you'll also notice 35 percent say no chance they'd vote for Schwarzenegger.

Now, if Schwarzenegger is the front-runner, can he win on name recognition and an appealing public personality alone? Clearly his opponents are arguing that he's like Gertrude Stein once described Oakland. When you get there, there's no there there. Both Governor Davis and one of his Republican opponents, McClintock, struck almost the same note.

Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: He clearly doesn't have very much experience in public life. And I can tell you that recycling old lines from movies only gets you so far. I believe leadership is more than talk. It is action.


TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA STATE SENATOR: There's a great deal that I'm sure Arnold Schwarzenegger could teach me about making movies. There's a great deal I could teach him about the fiscal reforms necessary to set this state right. But there's no time for training.


GREENFIELD: Now, the problem with this argument is obvious. Experienced public officials got California into that $38 billion hole. So there's an appetite for a new face.

But even though the poll shows a favorable opinion of Schwarzenegger, the pressures, even in a two-month campaign, suggest he will have to demonstrate some level of knowledge about the state, and what's wrong and possible solutions.

Finally, how tough is the argument that Democrats will be making? And the answer is very. They're telling voters, don't vote for the recall, but just in case, vote for Lieutenant Governor Bustamente.

Now just consider one dilemma. In California, Latinos are predominantly Democratic, so if you're a Democrat, you want them to go to the polls on October 7th.

But on the second half of the ballot is Cruz Bustamante, who could become the first Latino governor. So if you bring Latinos out, are you brings Democrats out who will vote no on recalling Davis? Or are you bringing out voters who will vote yes so they can then make Bustamente the governor?

Now, all of this assumes that voters will be able to find the candidate they want to vote for on a list of 100 or 200 names listed not in alphabetical order -- that would be too easy -- in random order.

So, Daryn, fasten your seat belt, s they say, it's going to be a bumpy flight.

KAGAN: Oh, it already is very bumpy. So let's focus on Gray Davis -- what do you do if you're Gray Davis trying to cling to your job?

GREENFIELD: Two things, I think. One you say Republican, Republican, Republican. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican. This is a Republican plot. This is a Democratic state. Second, I believe, and in another day I used to be a political operative many decades ago, you have to acknowledge mistakes. People want to hear Gray Davis say, I've done things wrong and I've gotten the message. And that's very tough for any of us to do, God knows journalists don't like to do it. But it's tough for politicians. But I believe it's worked in the past. John Lindsay got re-elected here in New York many years ago. I've know senators who've saved their careers. They've got to say, OK, I get it, I'm not infallible, I was too arrogant, I hear you.

KAGAN: OK, now while we have you here, we'll take advantage of this. The one thing this California situation has done, taken the spotlight off of national politics totally. There are those that are still focused on that. Democrats looking at the House, doing some math, saying you know what, it doesn't really add up for us to try to recapture the House with the majority in 2004.

GREENFIELD: The problem for anybody outside, anybody trying to recapture the House these days, is that the politicians of both parties have drawn the lines, the 435 congressional lines, to protect their own anatomies, which means that Democrats protect Democrats, Republicans protect Republicans, so there are so few competitive seats in this country, we elected at a rate that made the Soviet politburo look like it was competitive. There may be 15 or 20 seats in play. Republicans hold I think it's now about 229 or 205. You can't find that many seats that you can fight over any more. So it's very tough. They're already looking a year out and saying, I don't know how we pull this off. It would take a national shift in mood to overcome the fact that there are just 15 or 20 seats in play out of 435 in the whole country.

KAGAN: Given what we have over the next 60 or so days in California, that just seems a lifetime away.


KAGAN: Jeff Greenfield, thank you for that.


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