This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, August 9, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guess how bad California (search) looks to the rest of the country? Did you know this? People in Florida are laughing at them. OK, that's...
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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Joining us to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger's (search) entry into the California governor's race, and what it means for the rest of the field, is Daniel Weintraub of The Sacramento Bee, the author of the must-read political column that you can find at www.sacbee.com/insider.
Welcome back to the show, Daniel.
DANIEL WEINTRAUB, THE SACRAMENTO BEE: Thank you.
KONDRACKE: Now, Gray Davis (search), let's just focus on him for a minute. There are sort of, there's buzz around that, that he, he could, he could suddenly resign facing almost certain disaster. I take it you, you think that disaster is what is going to befall him. But so can he resign and, and...
WEINTRAUB: He can...
KONDRACKE: ... have this...
WEINTRAUB: ... resign...
WEINTRAUB: He can resign, but it doesn't stop the election. The recall election goes forward whether he stays or goes. What would happen, I don't think he's going to resign, but if he did, Cruz Bustamante (search), the lieutenant governor, would become governor. The problem then, and this is an unresolved question still, yet another in California, is that Bustamante would now be governor, he's in the recall election. If someone else is elected governor in the, in the election on October 7, Bustamante would be out. He's not…only be out as governor, he might be out as lieutenant governor also, he'd be completely...out of office.
WEINTRAUB: Gray could maybe take him down with him.
KONDRACKE: Right, just one more Davis question. What is Davis's survival strategy if he has one? I mean, how's he going to proceed?
WEINTRAUB: Well, the right-wing conspiracy strategy seems to have evaporated, with people like Arnold, not to mention Garamendi and Bustamante, the Democrats in the race. So that's gone. I think the only thing he's got left is sort of a, ironically, a good government strategy, to somehow persuade the voters that this whole thing is a mess, it's unseemly, it's not something that people do in a polite society, and they ought to reject it.
The problem is, even if he wins that argument, he might just persuade people to stay away from it. If he persuades people that this whole thing is a mess and something they don't want to be involved in, they might take him literally and just stay home. But everybody who wants him out is going to go to the polls, and then he's out.
FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Daniel, you probably know this, that many of the snobs in the East, and including a lot of people in the press, I'm not going to name anybody like Mort, but, you know, talk about this whole recall election is a carnival, is a circus, the, The New York Times on Friday had an editorial entitled, ‘Muscle Beach Politics.’…They call it undemocratic since Gray Davis was just elected last November. What do you say to all this? Is this a legitimate process?
WEINTRAUB: Absolutely. This process has been in the California constitution since 1911. It's never been used at the statewide level. This is an extreme case. 1.6 million people signed these petitions. They want a recall election.
It's not chaos, it's not…doesn't have to be a circus. California's going to hold an election. We're going to decide, should we keep the governor, or should we dismiss him? If we dismiss him, we're going to decide who should replace him.
It's not that complicated.
BARNES: What does Arnold Schwarzenegger have to do, as someone who starts with great name recognition and charisma, what does he need to do to put together a winning coalition?
WEINTRAUB: I think he's already well on his way to doing that. If you listened to some of his opening statements, he's showing that his ideology crosses party lines. He's talking about improving the business community, but why does he want to improve the business community and the jobs climate? In order to make more tax revenues flow into government coffers so that liberals can spend the money on childcare and schools and caring for older people.
So there, I mean, he's got a message that's already appealing across party lines. You add that to his celebrity status, and he's a formidable candidate.
KONDRACKE: Now, will, will either Bill Simon or State Senator McClintock tap off votes for, from Schwarzenegger to the point where there would be any danger that Bustamante could beat him?
WEINTRAUB: I think Bustamante is viable, in part for that reason. Certainly Arnold is going to be closed off to a certain segment of the Republican Party. He's pro-choice on abortion, he's completely comfortable with the gay culture and some gay rights issues. He's dabbled with supporting gun control.
Those things make him essentially a public enemy number one or two to the right wing of the Republican Party. The question is, how big of a group is that? It's probably, you know, Bill Simon got that nomination last year, running to the right. I don't know, it's probably somewhere 40 to 50 percent of the Republican Party, which means it's, you know, 20 to 25 percent of the electorate.
If Simon or McClintock divide that vote up and Bustamante gets most or all of the Democrats, Arnold's in the middle, and he's going to have to make inroads to the right and the left.
I think it's anybody's race at this point. I think Arnold is the man to beat, but I wouldn't rule out Bustamante.
BARNES: Is there anything President Bush can do to help Arnold there? You know, so far, the president says, Oh, this is up to Californians. But in the next few days, the president's going to be out there in California.
WEINTRAUB: Right. Well, actually on Friday, Bush was on the air, I guess from Texas, saying, you know, he was watching this whole thing with interest, and he actually said, I think Schwarzenegger would make a good governor. Didn't quite endorse him, but he gave him, which I think you'll see happening, this level of legitimacy. The Republican Governors Association welcomed him into the race, didn't endorse him. The Main Street Partnership Coalition of moderate Republicans in Congress did endorse him.
I think you're seeing, from all parts of the Republican power structure, people are saying, This guy is not a joke, he's not just an actor, he's a serious guy, and he's serious enough to for them to endorse him.
BARNES: Yes, Daniel, quickly, if you had to rate the candidates right now, would you put, in terms of their chances of getting elected, Schwarzenegger number 1, Bustamante number 2, and I don't know who number 3?
WEINTRAUB: Probably Simon number three. Yes, Arnold, Bustamante, and Simon is the way I would rank them right now. But this thing is wide open. Arnold's completely untested. He could fall apart, you know, another Democrat could get in.
KONDRACKE: And no one, and new, and no one new is not getting in, right? No one new is getting in?
WEINTRAUB: The only possibility would be the Democratic attorney general, Bill Lockyer. We have not heard the final word from him yet.
BARNES: All right, thank you, Daniel.
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