Tom McClintock Will Not Blink

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, September 12, that has been edited for clarity.

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TONY SNOW, GUEST-HOST: Joining us now to talk more about the California recall, Bruce Cain, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a political science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Welcome. Let's talk a little bit about the latest poll numbers. I'm particularly intrigued by the recall numbers, which have it 50-47-3. It's very close here. The recall is a bit like a ballot initiative in California. And there's a long history of ballot initiatives being very popular when first announced and being wiped out by a combination of organized opposition and a few campaign ads. Do you think Gray Davis (search) has a pretty good chance of surviving this, or do you think he's toast?

BRUCE CAIN, FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I wouldn't say that it's a pretty good chance, but I think there is a chance. I don't think it's toast. I don't think his chance is zero. But as you say, conventional wisdom about initiatives that's been borne out by many initiatives over the years, is that they start out fairly popular and then over time, people start to whittle away in their support.

And so, we don't know. We've never had a recall before at a statewide level. We don't know whether it follows the pattern of initiative. But it might. And if so, this would be evidence that it's coming back.

SNOW: There's also open warfare on both parties, first on the Democratic side. You have Cruz Bustamante (search); he's effectively dropped the no on recall and said, OK, just vote for me. There are obviously bad feelings between wings of the Democratic Party. Let us…what do you think is going to happen there?

CAIN: I think that kind of dynamic is bad for the Democratic Party. And you can see in today's LA Times poll that there's still a lot of Democratic voters not planning to vote on the second part of the ballot and they won't do so until they're encouraged by Dianne Feinstein and Gray Davis to do it. And similarly, it is not good news for Gray Davis to have Cruz Bustamante not, you know, out there pushing no on the recall. Particularly since there are a lot of Latinos who are thinking of voting yes on the recall in order to get the historic first of a Latino governor.

SNOW: Bustamante finds himself under fire for a whole series of things; MECHA (search) ties in the past and also taking…using a legal loophole in the law to shell a lot of money into the campaign.

CAIN: Yes. Of the two, I would say it is the money more than the MECHA. The money resonates with Democratic voters who have seen this all before. That was the big issue when Gray Davis was running for governor last time.

And the Democratic Party on the whole cares more about campaign finance reform than the Republican Party. And so if Democrats are taking large sums of money from special interests and using that to finance their campaign, that really bothers Democratic activists.

And that's really the key to the race for Cruz Bustamante is uniting the Democrats behind him.

SNOW: Meanwhile, Republicans are going to have a state convention this weekend. We've already heard that some Tom McClintock (search), state senator, ran for comptroller last year, the leading statewide Republican vote getter last time around.

And a guy whose numbers continue to creep upward; he's gone from 12 to 18 in the last field poll. His supporters are going to be greeting Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) wearing chicken suits. Now, it appears a lot of Republicans want Tom McClintock to drop out and it also appears he is not going to do it.

CAIN: This is the stubbornness man in California politics right here, Tom McClintock. If you had to pick one person that you didn't want to be between you and the governorship would be McClintock. I don't think he's the kind of person that will bow out. Now, maybe his supporters will decide to vote for Schwarzenegger because he is the most realistic choice. But it won't be Tom McClintock that blinks. And this isn't in his personality. It isn't in his vocabulary.

SNOW: Well, talk a little bit about this. A number of us, we've had him on TV at various times. And you know, he talks his line. But give us some insight into his personality. You just said the most stubbornness man in California politics?

CAIN: Oh, yes. I mean this isn't something new. Tom McClintock has been sort of the lonely end of the Republican team for a long time. He has been way out there on the end and sometimes he just goes completely against everybody else. He just votes completely differently.

He is a true fiscal conservative. And a tradition that we've had in California since 1978. He would rather see departments closed, agencies cut down, the University of California privatized the before he would raise tax one penny. And he means it. It's not…this isn't just posturing. This is what he means.

SNOW: All right. If you take a look at the statewide Republican Party, you've seen cases in the past, like last year with Dick Riordan, started reaching out for Democratic votes before he secure add Republican nomination. Has Arnold Schwarzenegger failed at this juncture to secure a Republican base?

CAIN: So far, he has. So far he's getting less than 50 percent of the Republican vote and that is why McClintock's candidacy is so important. I mean the math is compelling. If you are Republican, you need to have a united Republican vote. You have got to get 90 percent of the Republican votes because you're spotting 10 points in registration numbers to the Democrats. Now, maybe the Democrats won't turn out and maybe that won't be as much of a problem. But you can't count on that.

So I think Schwarzenegger is doing the right thing. He needs to unite the Republican Party. He has to have a solid basis in Republican support and then hopes he picks up enough Independents.

SNOW: And how important is that September 24 debate to him?

CAIN: I think it's critical because you could see in the LA Times poll, a lot of people have questions about whether or not he's been specific enough on issues and whether he should be ducking debates with McClintock. So, he needs to be there on the 24th and he needs a good performance.

SNOW: And what do you think?

CAIN: I think he will do a pretty good job. I've met him. I think he actually made a mistake in that first debate. I think he was ready. I think he could have handled that. I don't think that's his problem. I think he has a tactical problem in the sense that if he says he takes the pledge; he is going to alienate moderates. But if he doesn't take the pledge, he can't get conservatives.

SNOW: You're talking about the no-tax pledge.

CAIN: Exactly.

SNOW: Bruce Cain, thank you so much for joining us.

CAIN: Sure.

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