Is Arnold Schwarzenegger Too Socially Liberal for Conservatives to Support?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, August 28, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) says he is in favor of legal medical marijuana (search), abortion rights and gun control, all traditionally liberal positions. State Senator Tom McClintock (search) says he's the guy for California conservatives. Earlier I asked him if Arnold is too liberal for conservatives to support? That's today's big question.


CALIF. STATE SEN. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think that's a decision that every voter is going to arrive at. My concern is that he's surrounded himself with the people who are responsible for the biggest tax increase in this state's history back in 1991. Warren Buffett (search), one of the most outspoken advocates for higher taxes in the country is his chief financial adviser, and he's pointedly refused to take a no-tax pledge. Those are my principle concerns.

GIBSON: Right. But California seems to be not quite as conservative as you and your supporters. Do you think that there really is a lot of appeal for people who'd like to vote for a Republican than somebody who adopts some liberal positions?

MCCLINTOCK: I beg to differ with you. I was the top Republican vote-getter in this state last year. I received more Democratic crossover votes, more total votes than any other Republican running on the ticket. The district that elected me to the state Senate by a double-digit landslide victory was also voting for Al Gore in the same election. So I'm quite confident that the reforms I have proposed over 20 years in the public arena to reign in our bureaucracies and to reduce our taxes and regulations, that is resonating with a very broad cross-section of California voters.

GIBSON: Right. But if the election gets close and it looks to you like Gray Davis' mini-me Cruz Bustamante (search) could win, would you say to yourself, “It's so important for somebody who at least calls himself a Republican to win, I will back out and throw my support to [Schwarzenegger]?”

MCCLINTOCK: This isn't about Republicans or Democrats. It is not even about Gray Davis (search), or Cruz Bustamante, or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom McClintock. This is about the future of California and the voters of California are more than capable of sorting out those questions and making their own decisions.

GIBSON: You see the polls, though. If all of that is true, if you think the voters of California are a bit more conservative than we have though up to this moment, why does Arnold have such a huge lead? I mean, you score well. But he's got a huge lead.

MCCLINTOCK: Actually in the three major polls in this state, he has been stuck in the mid-to-low 20s ever since he entered the race. He is not showing any momentum. Meanwhile, I've gone from an asterisk to double-digits in the span of just three weeks. The directors of all the three major polls were on the air just yesterday saying, “The only candidate we're seeing momentum from was McClintock.”

GIBSON: So you actually think you are going to overtake not only Bustamante, but Schwarzenegger?

MCCLINTOCK: Yes, if the trend continues, that's exactly what I think.

GIBSON: What would account for that? What would account for the trend continuing at that rate, if that's what you think is going to happen?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, 20 years of experience in the public arena, proposing exactly those reforms that everyone now agrees are absolutely essential if we're going to restore our state's finances, and our public works and our economy.

GIBSON: But do you think that the star power factor of a movie star coming to the race is not so great that you actually can't overtake it?

MCCLINTOCK: Oh, absolutely. I know there's a tendency at the national level to focus on the glitz and glamour of the campaign. But what is going on here in California is a very serious discussion over the future of our state. The voters want to see a candidate's experience. They want to know exactly what direction a candidate would take this state.

I've said from the outset, within moments of taking the oath of office, “I'll rescind the governor's tripling of the car tax. I'll act to avoid the $42 billion of outrageously overpriced electricity contracts that Davis locked us into, and then I'll call a special session of the legislature to replace our worker's compensation law with Arizona's and bring our workers' compensation costs down by two-thirds.” Those things can be done the first morning of the new administration. I've laid out all of those plans in very careful detail, and people are responding to that.

GIBSON: Well, Senator McClintock, with all due respect, all great ideas and you're to be congratulated for being specific. But I don't think it's the national media that's driving the California polls. There seems to be a huge star power effect, which at this point, looks like it might be very difficult for someone like yourself to overcome.

MCCLINTOCK: Well, John, again, despite unprecedented media coverage in the top three polls in this state, Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown absolutely no movement since he got into the race. He has been consistently in the low to mid-20s and stuck there. Meanwhile, I've shown significant momentum going, as I said, from an asterisk to double-digits. If you combine Bill Simons' voters with mine, if they will rally to my campaign, in the L.A. Times numbers, we approach a statistical dead heat.

GIBSON: What did I see yesterday? I thought I saw a poll just fresh out of California that put Arnold 15 points ahead of Bustamante and a considerable number ahead of you, who's behind Bustamante. What was that?

MCCLINTOCK: And that's wildly out of sync with the three major polls in this state. It is a very, very small sample and, as I said, out of sync with every other poll that's been done.

GIBSON: Senator McClintock, thanks for coming on and good luck.

MCCLINTOCK: Thank you very much.


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