August 4: Dan Weintraub from the Sacramento Bee Assesses Governor Gray’s Chances of Postponing the Vote and Getting His Name on the Ballot

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 4, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: If California Governor Gray Davis (search) is recalled, he wants the voters to be able to choose him as his own successor. Davis has gone to court asking both to delay the recall election and to have his name listed on both parts of the ballot. FOX News correspondent Claudia Cowan has the latest from the West Coast.


CLAUDIA COWAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: California Governor Gray Davis can't stop the recall vote, so instead he is asking the state Supreme Court to postpone it, and to put his name on the replacement ballot. His attorneys filed suit, challenging a state law that bars the subject of a recall from being on the list of replacement candidates.

MICHAEL KAHN, LAWYER FOR GRAY DAVIS: The voters should have a choice to select the governor as their preferred choice. And all we're asking is that he is put in the list along with everybody else.

COWAN: Davis also argues that California's counties don't have the time to pull off a statewide election in the 64 days they have left. Delaying the recall vote until spring will save the state money and could save his job. March 2 is the date of the state's 2004 presidential primary, which will dramatically increase Democratic turnout and boost Davis' chances. Recall supporters are calling the governor's legal maneuvering, "stall tactics."

Meantime, the list of potential candidates continues to grow. The latest? Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.

LARRY FLYNT, PUBLISHER, HUSTLER MAGAZINE: And I honestly think that California wouldn't mind having a smut peddler who cares as governor.

COWAN: One well-known face that won't be on the ballot? Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) is expected to formally announce that he isn't running on Wednesday's Tonight Show.

With Saturday's filing deadline approaching, there are signs that support within the governor's own party is starting to waiver. Senate Democrats who opposed the recall are nevertheless mulling over possible fallback candidates, a strategy designed to save the party's position if Gray Davis gets fired by the voters.


HUME: Joining us now from Sacramento is Dan Weintraub, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

Dan thanks for being here. Let me ask you this to start off with. From what you know of the law, does Gray Davis have a case here in trying to get this, A, postponed and B, him on the ballot at the bottom?

DAN WEINTRAUB, COLUMNIST, SACRAMENTO BEE: I think his chances of getting on the ballot are close to nil. His case on that front seems to be pretty weak. It is also politically very risky. I mean he risks almost looking like a sore loser before the campaign has even begun here; trying to change the rules before the people even go to the polls. So, I think he's on pretty thin ice there.

The second question of postponing it until March, he might have a better shot at that because a lot of the county registrars who run these elections are scrambling and saying they don't have the time or the personnel to put this thing on October 7. So he is making the argument that we're going to have long line; or not enough polling places and sort of this whole Florida analogy all over again.

HUME: Well, is there something in the state law that says that the…that gives the courts a way to get into this and determine that…that the election can be postponed or...

WEINTRAUB: Not really. They'd probably have to go to some kind of constitutional grounds where they would say if there are not enough polling places or if the lines are too long, or if there's not enough time to review the campaign, that somehow that's a constitutional infringement on the right of people to vote. You could have a Voting Rights Act (search) violation if it's focused on minority voters, for instance. It's going to have to be kind of a sideways entry into the election because there is no front door for them to go through on this, I think.

HUME: Well, I guess we've learned from past experience that state Supreme Courts can be quite imaginative when it comes to finding ways to do things with elections and their dates, can't we?

WEINTRAUB: Absolutely.

HUME: Let me ask you…let me follow up here with how do you interpret this move by Davis? I mean, I think, the immediate reaction from me is if somebody halfway, you know, all way across the country, it sounds like he is desperate. Is that a reasonable or unreasonable interpretation?

WEINTRAUB: I think that is a pretty reasonable interpretation. Up until now, all the lawsuits had been filed by allies of the governor. This is the first time he's stepped up and done it himself. Which suggests that he knows that this thing is on the line right now. I'm hearing that the most recent polls taken over the weekend are showing the margin in support of the recall widening rather than shrinking. Which Davis had hoped it would be doing at this point.

So he knows that his fellow Democrats, as we heard just now, are getting increasingly worried about his viability. And he is trying to do something, I think, to keep them from deserting him.

HUME: The conventional wisdom for a time had been that the best chance the Democrats had would be to rally behind him and give Democratic voters only one way to keep a Democrat in the State House.


HUME: It sounds, from what you're saying, as if that has now changed. And there was a feeling I know that some people had, that if any Democrat of any standing at all got on the race to be at the bottom of the ballot, that is to say to be a successor, that that would be it for him. What is the thinking on all those things now?

WEINTRAUB: Well, I don't think the conventional wisdom has changed. I think they still believe that that was their best chance of saving him. But if they are now concluding, which they may well be, that they can't save him, their next priority will be to save that governor's seat for the Democratic Party. And they can't do that if they don't have somebody on the ballot.

So, this movement, that we've been seeing the last few days and even today, to potentially, you know, draft or get some Democrats on that ballot, hopefully one Democrat in their point of view, I think suggests that they may be concluding that, you know, he is finished.

HUME: Now, I guess it doesn't take much. All you have to have is a simple plurality of the votes and it could be 15 percent if everybody else gets less in there. Who is shaping up as perhaps the most likely other Democrat on the ballot?

WEINTRAUB: Well, I think all along the sort of favorite of the insiders has been Sen. Dianne Feinstein (search), D-Calif. But she has said very emphatically that she opposes the recall. She's left the door open just a tiny crack that she might change her mind at some point. If she does not, we're hearing Leon Panetta's name again, the former congressman and chief of staff to Bill Clinton (search). Again, I think the insiders are putting a lot of faith in him because he was a moderate, a former Republican. I don't think he is well known at all in California.

HUME: He isn't really. Yes, he served in the House from that district I guess down around Carmel, didn't he? And then I guess he never was a statewide figure, was he?

WEINTRAUB: Right. Well, all the insiders know him, he's chief of staff to the president. And obviously, he was a very important figure. But I don't think he has any mass name ID or you know, he is not a known quantity at all in the state as a whole.

HUME: What is your best guess? Davis goes down?

WEINTRAUB: I hate to make predictions because we've never been here before. I think at the moment he's headed down. But he's been counted out before. As he liked to say, he was once referred to before as "road kill" and went on to win an election. He's a fierce campaigner and he will not give up until this thing is done. So, don't count him out.

HUME: Dan Weintraub, so nice to have you. Thanks very much.

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