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ACLU Seeks to Delay California Recall Vote

Aired August 18, 2003 - 16:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN GUEST HOST: Thanks for joining us. I'm John King. Judy is off this week.
About 30 minutes from now, the American Civil Liberties Union will try to convince a federal judge that "democracy in California should not hang by a chad." It's the latest legal attempt to postpone the controversial recall election from October 7, just 51 days from now, until March 2004. The ACLU contends a fall vote threatens to disenfranchise eight million voters who live in counties where punch card ballot systems have not been replaced yet.

Meanwhile, CNN has learned the Justice Department's civil rights lawyers here in Washington are reviewing the proposed election procedure in place for the October 7 recall. That review at the Justice Department in connection with a separate legal challenge filed by advocates for minority voters. And while the lawyers duke it out here in Washington and across on the West Coast, the recall candidates are doing much of the same.

Governor Gray Davis' office says the governor is considering making a statewide television address this week. Some advisers tell us the governor may make a direct appeal to Democrats and to Independents to keep him in office.

Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing to launch the first TV ads of his campaign on Wednesday. Sources say those 60-second spots will go up first in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The new Schwarzenegger ads would come as he is targeted in the ads of arrival.



KING (voice-over): We're waiting. Apart from a few fleeting glimpses, the world hasn't seen much of Arnold Schwarzenegger since he launched his campaign for governor. And with less than two months to go, there's pressure on "The Terminator" to stop talking sound bites...

SCHWARZENEGGER: Hasta la vista.

KING: ... and start talking issues.

A recent field poll shows Schwarzenegger second in the recall horse race. Among likely voters, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante tops the field with 25 percent. Republican Schwarzenegger is nipping at his heels with 22 percent. "The Terminator" had enjoyed double-digit leads in earlier polls.

While Schwarzenegger has kept quiet, some of his supporters have been talking out of turn. Former Governor Pete Wilson, for example, revealed the candidate backed Proposition 187, which denied government aid to illegal immigrants. That may be hurting Schwarzenegger among Latino voters, who largely oppose the measure.

Then, Schwarzenegger's billionaire adviser, Warren Buffett, declared Californians pay too little in property taxes. Team Arnold was quick to repudiate the statements, but rival Republican Bill Simon sensed an opening.

BILL SIMON (R), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Arnold Schwarzenegger's team wants to triple our property taxes, which just goes to show you, don't send a liberal to do a tax fighter's job.

KING: On Wednesday, will convene what his campaign bills as an economic summit, a chance, perhaps, to rebut that Simon ad and presumably to flush out his platform.


KING: And in another development today, the Schwarzenegger campaign has announced that Congressman David Dreier, a Republican of California, will be the lead negotiator for the Schwarzenegger campaign in arranging any debates during the recall campaign. Significantly, in this statement released by the Schwarzenegger campaign just a short time ago, Schwarzenegger says he looks forward to debating not only the other candidates on the recall ballot, but also Governor Gray Davis.

Now let's talk more about Schwarzenegger, his rivals, and public opinion. I'm joined now by Mark DiCamillo. He's the director of the California Field Poll.

Mark, thank you for joining us. A significant poll by your organization over the weekend shows Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to be slipping somewhat. I want to look at one finding in it. One of the questions, of course, is does his inexperience in government help or hurt?

In your poll, you have this: 15 percent say they're more inclined to vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger because he hasn't served in office before. But 41 percent say they would be less inclined to vote for him because he has no experience in office. Forty-four percent say they have no opinion.

Is it your sense that as the rivals take aim at him his lack of experience could hurt him?

MARK DICAMILLO, DIRECTOR, FIELD POLL: Most undoubtedly. That's really the major weakness, I think, that Schwarzenegger has as he starts the race. He's going to have to build credibility among voters that he's a serious candidate. Democrats, in particular, are very skeptical of his abilities to be governor.

KING: One of the questions, of course, is where does the Latino vote go on this election. The early polls showed Schwarzenegger had some support, pretty good support among Latino voters. One of the key issues for them, of course, Proposition 187, which would have cut off state services to illegal immigrants.

Your poll found this: that 37 percent say they are more inclined to vote for Schwarzenegger if he supported Prop 187, which he did. Thirty-five percent less inclined to vote for him. A wash right now in your view?

DICAMILLO: Well, it cuts two ways. It helps him among Republicans. And he does need to broaden his support within his own rank and file. But it really hurts among Democrats.

So it's a tough call. It's a complicated kind of political decision whether he wants to shore up his own Republican base and continue to play off of his support for 187, or maybe try to just downplay it to try to win over the votes of Democrats, and in particular, Latinos.

KING: Governor Gray Davis says he will not quit, will not step aside. We're hearing now perhaps even some sort of a dramatic statewide address this week. If you look at your poll, tough slate (ph) for the governor, to say the least, Mark.

Let's look at this number here. Now 58 percent say they would vote to recall Governor Davis. That's up seven points from 51 percent in July. And 70 percent of Californians say no. Seventy percent say no when they're asked if they approve of Governor Davis' performance in office. Does he have a prayer?

DICAMILLO: Well, he's first got to stop the bleeding. It's moving in the wrong direction for him. In our three polls that we've done, it moved from a 2-point disadvantage to an eight-point. And then in the latest poll, it's 21 points on the yes side for the recall.

The governor has to arrest that development and then try to win some of the -- probably the Democrats back. Right now, about one out of four Democrats are voting to recall the governor.

KING: Simon is up with this new radio ad criticizing Schwarzenegger. We're told at CNN that Schwarzenegger will come up on Wednesday with ads of his own. As the money goes into media buys, what is the biggest wildcard right now when you look at the data from your most recent poll?

DICAMILLO: Well, it's really what are the Republicans going to do, especially the conservative Republicans. Right now, Schwarzenegger's getting 36 percent of Republican support. But if you add together the support for the two more conservative Republicans in the race, McClintock and Simon, that also adds to 36 percent of Republican support. So Schwarzenegger needs some of that support on his side. And really, that's why he's in the second-place position in our poll.

Bustamante has no such difficulty within the Democratic side. There's no other prominent Democrat on the ballot. So he's getting about half of the votes of Democrats. Schwarzenegger has to shore up some support within his own rank and file.

KING: Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll, thank you very much, sir. A very difficult but also fascinating race to keep track of. Thank you.

DICAMILLO: Thank you.

KING: And as if California politics weren't already complicated, the state legislature reconvenes today. Many Democratic lawmakers are trying to ram through their top legislative priorities, fearing their party may soon lose control of the governor's office. But Gray Davis himself could stand in their way. Some critics suggest Davis may withhold support for some measures as a tactic to encourages more donations to his anti-recall campaign.

Political observers, of course, say they have never seen anything quite like this recall chaos in California. But our Bill Schneider does see a familiar character who has a good deal in common with some renegades of the past.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First came Ross Perot in 1992. In 1998, we got Jesse "The Body" Ventura. In 2000, John McCain was a political sensation. Now it's "The Terminator."

They're the indie dudes, independent. And while many women think they're cool, these candidates are especially popular with young males, like this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arnold Schwarzenegger movies are just like pizza. When they're good, they're really good, and when they're bad, they're still pretty good.

SCHNEIDER: These dudes like candidates who take on the establishment.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The Washington establishment is in a panic mode.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I will go to Sacramento and I will clean house.

SCHNEIDER: The indie dudes are self-made men, not party men. Perot made himself rich. Schwarzenegger pumped himself up. Ventura made a spectacle of himself. McCain is a war hero.

They all became famous outside of politics. To them, politics is the enemy of problem solving. Their mantra: just fix it.

ROSS PEROT, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want to fix the engine, you've got to lift up the hood and get under there and go to work.

SCHNEIDER: Reform it.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I want to go in there, reform the system so it's back in the people's hands.

SCHNEIDER: Take it back.

MCCAIN: It is a fight to take our government back from the power brokers and special interests and return it to the people.

SCHNEIDER: It's like six degrees of separation. Perot founded the Reform Party. Ventura got elected as the Reform Party candidate. McCain embraced Ventura, Schwarzenegger went to Ventura's swearing-in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's pretty cool. You know? Because I know Jesse "The Body" Ventura, he did it. And I saw him.

They did a press conference, them two together. That was pretty cool.

SCHNEIDER: Is there an indie dude ideology? Strangely, yes. They share a libertarian distrust of government. Government out of your pockets and out of your bedroom. Remember how McCain attacked the religious right?

MCCAIN: We will not let Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson run the Republican Party of the United States.

SCHNEIDER: Remember when Ross Perot's running mate was asked about abortion?

JIM STOCKDALE: I believe that a woman owns her body and what she does with it is her own business, period.

SCHNEIDER: Listen to the indie dudes philosophize.

SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm just being conservative, very conservative.

SCHNEIDER: Wait, there's more.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Because when it comes to issues like social issues, I'm moderate.

JESSE VENTURA, FMR. MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: And so the new wave was to be fiscally conservative with social moderate to liberal policies. And I think that's what you're looking at.


SCHNEIDER: What you're looking at is a new wave of candidates and their young male supporters. They come from outside of traditional politics, and they share the same view of government. Call it the indie dude philosophy. Don't tell me what to do, dude.

KING: Our own indie dude, Bill Schneider. Thank you, Bill. There's still much more ahead on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll take a closer look at the Latino vote in California. Would it make or break Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign?

Plus the John Edwards story as told in new presidential campaign ads. But could he be a short-timer in the race?

And we'll check out the latest political fallout from the blackout of 2003.


KING: Senator and presidential hopeful John Edwards today wrapped up a six-day bus tour of Iowa. And he also debuted a new television commercial in South Carolina. The new ad features Edwards touting his populist roots while sitting on the steps of his boyhood home.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The folks I grew up with, they weren't famous and they sure weren't rich. But they worked long and hard to give their kids a better life. As president, I'll work hard to protect our jobs, make health care affordable, and open the doors of opportunity to everyone.


KING: Over the weekend, Edwards signaled to "The New York Times" that his campaign progress over the next few months could determine whether he remains in the race for the White House or decides to seek re-election to the Senate. One top aide, though, today told me Edwards is running for president, period.

Checking the headlines now in Campaign News Daily, Retired General and former NATO Commander Wesley Clark appears closer to a decision on whether he'll run for president. Clark tells CNN's Wolf Blitzer he set a rough deadline to make up his mind.


GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), FMR. NATO COMMANDER: I have not made the decision yet, but I am coming to closure on the matter, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "LATE EDITION": When will you make that final decision?

CLARK: Sometime in the next...


KING: The group is not waiting for the general to decide. They started running TV ads this week in New Hampshire and Iowa, as well as Clark's state home of Arkansas.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is already off and running for the White House, but his first official campaign announcement will be held outside The Bay State. Kerry plans to formally kick off his campaign on September 2 in Charleston, South Carolina, followed by a step in Iowa. The next day, rallies in New Hampshire and back home to Boston.

Several of the Democratic presidential hopefuls appear to have sensed political opportunity in last week's huge power blackout. Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman have voiced some of the toughest criticisms of Bush administration energy policies. But a search of energy policy speeches delivered by these candidates over the past three months finds none of them have specifically addressed energy grid problems.

Earlier today, the White House press secretary fired back at the president's critics.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's ridiculous. Are these the same people that are pointing fingers, saying that if that one provision is taken out that they will now support a comprehensive energy plan as outlined by the president? I mean, of course not. I think that what you're seeing is political posturing. The president's focused on seeking solutions, and as I mentioned a minute ago, we need comprehensive solutions, not patchwork crisis management.


KING: As for the investigation, the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said today it is still too early to tell what caused last week's blackout.

One more note on energy politics. Senator Joe Lieberman had words of praise today for Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano's handling of the gasoline delivery crunch affecting her state. As a gesture of support, Lieberman said he will postpone his upcoming 21-city RV tour of Arizona. The RVs will remain parked until the tour is rescheduled.

They make up around one out of 10 of every voter in California. Coming up, how to capture the Latino vote, which could be the key to winning the recall election.


KING: Those numbers make clear one potential wildcard in the California recall election is the impact of the Latino vote. California Latinos traditionally have gone heavily Democratic, a trend Governor Gray Davis will need to repeat if he hopes to survive. With me now to talk more about how important this constituency is Karen Kaufmann. She's an assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

Let's look first at a little history in the 2002 California gubernatorial election. Just last year Governor Davis was reelected. He got 65 percent of the Latino vote. Bill Simon, the Republican nominee then, 24 percent.

Heading into this race, you've got a number of candidates. How critical of an electorate, and where do you sense they are now?

KAREN KAUFMANN, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Well, you know, I think once Cruz Bustamante entered this race, there's a good chance that Latinos are going to be very mobilized. One thing we know from 2002 is that they really didn't show up in very good numbers. Even though Latinos represent about 15 percent of the registered electorate in California, they only were 10 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election.

But I think there's every reason to believe that there's going to be enormous mobilizing efforts in the Latino community. And, at a minimum, they should probably represent their proportional numbers. And there's even a chance that they could represent more than 15 percent of the electorate, and that would be, you know -- it could potentially be a critical factor also because there's every reason to believe that they're going to overwhelmingly support Bustamante.

KING: Now, do these voters tend to look forward, or will they look back? Prop 187 was a big deal for the Latino vote. Arnold Schwarzenegger is being criticized by many conservatives for social policies. But I believe we have a picture of a big hug from former Governor Pete Wilson, who is so identified. Prop 187 would have denied education and other services to illegal immigrants.

The Latino population did not like that. Will they hold it against Arnold Schwarzenegger?

KAUFMANN: Well, I think the minute that Bustamante entered the race, Schwarzenegger's chances of really getting any reasonable amount of the Latino vote went away. I mean, what we know from races all over the country is a certain amount of ethnic solidarity in terms of voting behavior among Latinos. Especially the fact that Bustamante's a Democrat, and the vast majority of Latinos are Democrat. So I think Schwarzenegger may have been an attractive in the beginning in the absence of a viable Democratic candidate, much less a viable Latino Democratic candidate.

KING: In about eight minutes, the ACLU is going to federal court in California it says because of the punch card ballots still in place in so many California counties, that this election is unfair, would disenfranchise I believe they're saying eight million voters. Is there a history, a precedent? Do you think this suit has a chance compared to the others that have been thrown out?

KAUFMANN: You know, I wish I could tell you that I were a legal scholar and I had a professional opinion on this. I think they have a very good argument. The fact is that many of the California counties have replaced their machines to machines that the state of California themselves have argued are better and will have a better count.

And now I think there are six remaining counties that have these older machines, and so the people in those six counties won't have as many of their votes counted. So certainly, from a layman's perspective, it seems as though there's some basis, but I have absolutely no idea what the court's going to do.

KING: Now, President Bush very much had hoped to put California in play for 2004. One of his hopes was based on the fact that he could increase his own standing among Latino voters. In 2000, the presidential race, Al Gore got 67 percent of the Latino vote in California. President Bush, then Governor Bush, 28 percent.

Any sense of how the politics of this recall, is there a domino effect on President Bush either favorably or unfavorably? Or does he just sit and watch?

KAUFMANN: Well, you know, I truthfully think that the Republicans have little to gain and probably even some to lose. I mean, right now they're sitting in a state with a Democratic governor where people are very dissatisfied with the governor, with the legislature, and maybe that would spill over to some sense the Democratic Party.

Were the Republicans able to win this, there's no reason to believe that California's economy and all of the problems, especially the fiscal problems in California can be rectified in one or two years. And so now what you'd have is a dissatisfied, unhappy electorate who had their taxes raised and their services cut under the domain of a Republican governor.

I don't see where this recall has any ability to really benefit the Bush administration at this point in terms of their electoral prospects. And, you know, I don't think there's any reason to think, knowing what we know about California Latinos, that they're going to be voting for any greater numbers for President Bush.

KING: All right. We need to end it there. Karen Kaufmann of the University of Maryland, thank you very much.

KAUFMANN: Thank you.

KING: Now many Californians are learning about the recall campaign by watching entertainment television. Coming up, from "The Tonight Show" to "The Daily Show" and beyond. The recall as must-see TV.


KING: When Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his campaign for governor on "The Tonight Show," it pretty much set the tone for a recall campaign that's a blockbuster for media types from Hollywood to Washington. Among those taking in the show, our national correspondent, Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Joining me now from Los Angeles to talk about the recall chaos...

BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's on the news, sure. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't play anything else but that on the news.

MORTON: But it's not just the news. It's everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jay Leno makes fun of it big time.

JAY LENO, TALK SHOW HOST: Election officials announced this week -- I guess this makes it more fair. They said the alphabet on the ballot will begin with the letter "R" then "W" then "Q"." You know, even "Sesame Street" is laughing at California.

MORTON: Meanwhile, across the street on "The Daily Show" a song.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), how would you get your news? Like more like entertainment, like "Entertainment Tonight" or more like watch the news?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, "Entertainment Tonight" probably.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, the ultimate question will be answered on Election Day. And now, Mark Steinus (ph) has even more reaction to Arnold's campaign at the premiere of "Open Range."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that the best thing about it is it will get people to the polls.


MORTON: "Access Hollywood" accessing the same story at the same premiere.

TOM SELLECK, ACTOR: You know Arnold's a smart guy. And you know we need new blood. I think it's great for the democratic process.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up on "ET": what we've uncovered about Arnold's Kennedy wife and her trust fund.

MORTON: They've discovered she has one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything' inundated with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not that he's any more special or more qualified than anybody else who is running. It's that he is a celebrity, and the media has something to talk about and sell commercials about.

MORTON: Good point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) doesn't want either one of those guys running any kind of government, you know? But that's just my opinion.

MORTON: No, sir. This is a slow season and we love them, all 135 of them. Let the good times roll. Jay Leno knows. LENO: Thirty-one percent of California voters would vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger and 26 percent were not sure. And today, Gray Davis announced he is changing his name to "Not Sure."

MORTON: Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


KING: That's it for INSIDE POLITICS today. Thanks for watching. I'm John King.


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