Sen. McClintock: I Keep My Promises

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 24, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome to a special edition of HANNITY AND COLMES. I'm Colmes. Sean, reporting tonight from San Diego. How you doing...Mr. Hannity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: I'm doing fine, Mr. Colmes.

COLMES: Very good. Did you like the debate tonight?

Five of the candidates running for governor of California, including Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), took part in a debate tonight, right here on FOX.

Joining us now from the debate, Republican candidate and California State Sen. Tom McClintock.

Senator, did you like the debate tonight? How would you assess your own performance?

SEN. TOM MCCLINTOCK, R-Calif.: Well I never assess my own performance. I let the voters do that. But I've been very gratified by the response. I'm told we hit 90 percent of network capacity on our Web site within minutes of the debate. In the first hour we brought in another $20,000 in contributions, had 4,000 new volunteers sign up. So I'm very gratified by the public response.

COLMES: It doesn't sound to me by that response that you're inching toward bowing out of the race. That is not the direction you're going in, it seems.

MCCLINTOCK: Well, there you guys go again. I don't know what it is about the word "no" that people don't understand, but no, I'm not getting out of the race.

You know, I made a promise when I entered this race that I would see it through to the finish line, and I keep my promises.

COLMES: Let's talk about some of the issues that came up during this debate. Workers compensation (search). You compared California to other states, and you say that California should pay less in workers compensation.

That would be good for business. But what's that going to do for the worker, for the lower-wage earner in California?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, that's the nice thing about replacing our worker's compensation law with Arizona's.

We know that right across the state line we have a worker's compensation system where injured workers are being fully compensated, and yet their costs are 1/3 of what ours are here in California.

So I have suggested from the first day of this campaign we simply swap systems.

COLMES: But how do you do that without compensating people less? And wouldn't then, under your plan, the worker worry about getting less compensation in the McClintock compensation plan?

MCCLINTOCK: One of the problems we have here in California is we're the only state in the country that compensates without any kind of clinical verification of a physical injury.

So we end up paying out hundreds of millions of dollars for aches and pains and worries that, I'm sorry, are a part of life.

In Arizona, it is the truly injured workers who are fully compensated. In California, despite the worst workers compensation rates in the country, we also have one of the poorest compensations for injured workers because of all the fraud that's going on.

So, anyway, we have a model right across the state line that we know works. We have a system that we know doesn't. Let's swap the two.

COLMES: You want to rollback the $4 billion tax increase of car registration fees, but where do you make up that money? Where does the money come from?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, we simply extend to the California government the same freedom every family has, to shop around for the best service at the lowest price. There's about $9 billion in savings across all departments right there.

Another $6 billion of savings simply by streamline bureaucracies. That means abolishing those that duplicate local or federal functions or that overlap each other's jurisdictions. You have $2.5 billion in direct costs to state and local government if we simply move to the Arizona workers comp. system in addition to the enormous burden that would lift from businesses across California, and which...

COLMES: Are you happy…I'm sorry.

MCCLINTOCK: I was saying, which in turn means higher tax income for the state.

COLMES: Are you happy the election is going to happen on October 7, or would you want more time to get your message out?

MCCLINTOCK: Oh, no. I…regardless of where you stand on the recall or on the candidates, it's absolutely imperative that this election take place as scheduled on October 7th.

If the court had been allowed to delay a constitutionally called election, that would have constituted a constitutional crisis far graver than anything our generation has seen.

COLMES: The state Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte endorsed Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying that your candidacy, in his words, "Puts at risk not only the election of a Republican governor but the recall itself."

What's your response to his comments?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, my response is I disagree with Jim Brulte on that. I think that with the momentum on our side, with the response we've gotten tonight, I've got no question on election day we'll be in first place.

HANNITY: Hey, Tom. Sean Hannity here. Good to see you, my friend.

I thought you did a good job tonight. Congratulations to you.

MCCLINTOCK: Thank you. Thank you very much.

HANNITY: Let me…you won't assess yourself. Will you assess others? How do you think Arnold did in the debate tonight? How do you think Cruz Bustamante did tonight?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, you know, again, that's up to the voters to decide. I've already made my choice on candidates and the voters will make theirs in 13 days.

HANNITY: I understand, but wait a minute...go ahead.

MCCLINTOCK: What? Well, I was just going to say, I think the format of the debate was ideal for allowing people to judge the personalities, the character, the breadth of knowledge, the experience. Those are vital considerations for the people to assess.

I have to take my hat off to the California Broadcasters Association (search) and to its moderator. I think it was the most free- flowing discussion not only in this campaign, but I think the best discussion I've had in any of the campaigns I've run.

HANNITY: But you have been appealing to Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular to debate you on these important issues.

There was the poll that came out by the Public Policy Institute in California. Sixty-seven percent of likely voters said this debate tonight will influence their vote. So you have to have some assessment.

You were in the same room. You had a chance to go head to head with these guys. I mean, specifically, how do you think Arnold and how do you think Bustamante did?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, again, I'm not going to assess their performance. That's for the voters to…I'm obviously a little biased on that.

What I can say is a big thank you to all the folks who've come onto our Web site at and...

HANNITY: Everyone's got a Web site.

MCCLINTOCK: ... and pledge their support since this election, or since this debate ended an hour ago.

HANNITY: OK. Look, I appreciate that. Maybe you're not objective to it anyway, but I think it's important that we get to the bottom here.

Here's my position, and I think it's actually similar to Darrell Issa's (search) position...

MCCLINTOCK: I was going to say, Sean, that's what you guys get paid for. You're supposed to tell us what you thought of the debate.

HANNITY: Yes, but I also want to know what you thought. You were there. You wanted this opportunity. You got it tonight, and I just thought it would be interesting to see how you thought others did.

Darrell Issa took the position now, as you know, he started a lot of this, he funded a lot of this recall effort. He wanted to be a candidate himself. He bowed out of this particular race because he didn't think he could win, and one by one candidates have been getting out.

It seems…he's now taking the position that if the Republicans don't unite, meaning you or Arnold get out of this race, he says, and he's going to suggest to others, to vote no on recall. What do you think?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, Sean, as I told you some time ago, I am prepared at the appropriate moment to accept Arnold Schwarzenegger's endorsement.

Again, the momentum has been in every single poll solidly on our side. And that's why we call it a race. People get to decide who wins it at the end of the campaign.

HANNITY: I got you. Here's the bottom line. You going into tonight's debate pretty much in every poll across the board have been trailing Arnold by…he has about 2 to 1…about twice the number that you have, give or take a few points, in just about every poll. Sixty-seven percent of the...

MCCLINTOCK: And consistently gaining ground on him.

HANNITY: Sixty-seven percent of the people of California say they're going to be influenced by tonight's race. If you don't have the numbers to catch up to Arnold by, say, Tuesday of next week, if you don't have those numbers, he's still leading by the margin he presently has, it would appear you don't have a chance to win, would you feel comfortable then being in a position where the Republicans are going to be splitting their vote and that paves the way for Cruz Bustamante (search). You've got to be thinking about that.

MCCLINTOCK: Well, again, Sean, voters will sort those issues out very nicely for themselves as we approach election day.

I made a promise and I know we're used to politicians promising one thing and then forgetting about that. That's not true of me.

I mean, friend and foe alike will tell you one thing: McClintock steers a straight course regardless of what is the pressure. I made a promise at the outset of this race...

HANNITY: Even if you split the vote?

MCCLINTOCK: I made a promise that I would stay in this race to the finish line, and I will keep that promise. I've also promised that I will cut spending and balance this budget without tax increases, and that is also a promise.

HANNITY: All right, Tom, I'm hearing you loud and clear. You're saying tonight under no circumstances are you going to get out of this race. Let me tell you how I feel, Tom. I think...

MCCLINTOCK: Sean, that's what I've been telling you from the very beginning of this campaign.

HANNITY: I understand that. I understand…and that's fine. But I think it's…in one sense…here's what I feel. You and Arnold tonight both were shining through and coming through loud and clear.

You two are the stars of this debate tonight, by far. I don't think anybody came close to you. You were the two Republicans in this race.

Either you or Arnold will make a great governor in my estimation. I really believe that with all my heart. I think you did a great job tonight. I think he did a good job tonight.

But here's the problem. If you get to the point…if 67 percent of the people of California make their decision based on tonight's vote and, let's say you start beating Arnold by 10 points and Arnold stays in the race, chances are Bustamante is going win, because Republicans split their vote.

Is that good? Is that right? Is that good for the state of California?

MCCLINTOCK: Sean, that assumes that voters are automatons who are not going to make those judgments for themselves. I don't think you're going to see that. I think you're going to see in the closing days of the campaign...

HANNITY: There are two Republicans and one Democrat, Tom. You've got to see that.

MCCLINTOCK: I understand that. I think voters see it too. And as we continue to move forward in the polls, the argument that, well, McClintock might be the best candidate but he just can't win, that argument, which they also used against Ronald Reagan (search), disappears.

And I think you will see in the final days of the campaign a very solid avalanche of support from Arnold's column to mine. And if I were to stall, I think you'll see the opposite.

HANNITY: Yes, but I mean, we've got 13 days out of this thing. He has twice your numbers now. It's going to be very interesting to see what the polls look like in the next day or two, after this debate tonight.

If you do come out on top, if you do take over in the lead, and he still has 10 or 15 points in the polls, that is enough to serve as a spoiler, and in reverse you could serve as a spoiler if he were to be ahead.

And the sad reality is I like both of you. You are both light years ahead of Cruz Bustamante, and the reality is that if both of you are in this race, Cruz Bustamante is going to cruise…no pun intended…right into the governorship here, and an opportunity for Republicans, I think, is going to be lost.

MCCLINTOCK: Sean, the election is 13 days from now. People are going to make those judgments on their own. Now you mentioned the PPIC poll. Polls have different methodologies. They produce different numbers.

In the L.A. Times poll we were at 18 and I think Arnold was at 25 or 26, as I recall. What all of the polls agree on is that the momentum has been dramatically in my favor. We went from 5 points in the last PPIC poll, nearly tripling it in his poll.

That is solid momentum. I expect to see that continue through election day. And then I think you're going to see the voters say, "Hey, we can have our first choice and win," and that's when you're going to see that dynamic take place. It's not going to be 13 days before the election. It's going to be election night.

COLMES: Tom, it's Alan. What we're seeing there, it seems like conservatives, some conservatives, will probably prevail upon you and put pressure upon you…it's probably already happened. And as time goes forward and you get closer to October 7, more of them may decide to lean on you very heavily to make a choice you don't want to make.

And you're inured from that? You've decided you're not going to listen to any of that?

MCCLINTOCK: I made a promise. I intend to keep that promise. I stay a steady course no matter what the pressure.

COLMES: All right. Adam Housley, our Los Angeles FOX News correspondent is reporting that Darrell Issa, the guy who started all of this, is getting ready to endorse tomorrow morning Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Were you aware of that? And do you have a reaction to it?

MCCLINTOCK: I have no doubt about that. The Schwarzenegger campaign has been orchestrating this for the last several days. And my advice to them is, if they'd pay more attention to the policies of California and less attention to trying to muscle me out of the race, they'd be in much better shape right now.

COLMES: So you expected this to be the case. You've also know…it's been stated and it came up in the debate tonight, that there is very likely to be, were you to be elected governor, or any Republican, another recall starting almost immediately. Are you prepared to be recalled?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, there've been 31 attempts to recall California governors in the 92 years that's been in our state constitution.

Only one of them this one, has come anywhere close to qualifying, and this one qualified with more than twice the number of signatures required with many weeks to go before the signature gathering deadline.

The problem with that analysis is, you have to have the people solidly behind you to orchestrate a recall. There were 155,000 Californians who carried recall petitions. 152,000 of them were volunteers; 3,000 were paid.

So good luck, but I think that you have to have the people behind you to mount a recall election, and the people clearly are behind this recall.

HANNITY: All right, Tom, it's good to see you. You did a good job tonight. I hope the Republicans at the end of the day unite behind one person, but you might disagree with me on that. But you did do a good job tonight. Appreciate you being with us, thank you, Tom.

MCCLINTOCK: Oh, no. I'd like them to unite behind one person, and that's me. Thank you.

HANNITY: I'd be happy as long as one of you wins. I really will be. So best of luck to you.

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