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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I Am Ashamed Of My Party And My State

By 56 percent to 42 percent, likely voters support ousting the Democratic incumbent, a sign that Davis has lost ground in the closing phase of his battle for political survival. Support for Davis has slipped among key parts of his political base -- Democrats, women, moderates and liberals among them -- since the last Times Poll in early September found 50 percent for the recall and 47 percent against it.

Summing up the view of many voters was poll respondent Gladys Taub, a Democrat exasperated by the state's giant budget shortfalls

Gov. Davis has been doing a terrible job, and I just want to get rid of him," the 62-year-old paralegal, who plans to vote for Schwarzenegger, said in a follow-up interview. "Look at the state our state is in. If I ran my home that way, spending a whole lot more money than I was taking in, I'd wind up bankrupt. I'd wind up on the streets."


Overall, the poll found the central theme of Schwarzenegger's candidacy has struck a chord with likely voters: Rather than finding the actor frightening, they see him as the candidate most apt to curb the influence of special interests in Sacramento.

"I look at him as maybe like a Kennedy, where he really wants to do something good, because he's not in it for the money," said Jim Rego, 58, a Castro Valley independent who owns a gas station near Oakland.

Rego faults Davis for the state budget mess and sees Schwarzenegger as "a guy who can run a business, balance the books." He typically votes for Democrats; Schwarzenegger will be the first exception since Rego went for Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential race.


Many likely voters do harbor reservations about the former champion bodybuilder. Only 8 percent think Schwarzenegger has the best experience for the job of governor, well behind Davis, McClintock and Bustamante. Also, only 8 percent believe Schwarzenegger seemed more knowledgeable than his opponents in last week's televised debate in Sacramento.

But that appeared to matter less than other qualities. A broad swath of voters see in Schwarzenegger an aptitude they have found lacking in Davis since California was struck by the energy crisis of 2001: leadership skills.


For Davis, a key challenge in the final days of the race is to bolster support among Democrats. Despite his aggressive efforts to woo union members, Hispanics and other traditional blocs of the party, the poll found 27 percent of Democrats support the recall, up from 19 percent in the last poll.

Among liberal Democrats, support for the recall grew from 1-in-10 to 2-in-10. Among moderate Democrats, support for the recall rose from 30 percent to 35 percent. Union members, a key to Davis' success in previous elections, also tilted further in favor the recall, 54 percent-43 percent.


For Bustamante, the poll results are bleak. Only 41 percent have a favorable impression of him, while 58 percent view Schwarzenegger favorably, and 62 percent view McClintock in a positive light.

Bustamante's millions of dollars in campaign donations from casino-owning Indian tribes -- the subject of an unfavorable court ruling and a host of Schwarzenegger ads -- appear to have damaged his public image. More than four in 10 voters say those contributions make them less likely to vote for Bustamante.

Schwarzenegger has relentlessly barraged this state over the last month with ads, the media has been following him around like they're practicing to be Leni Reifenstahl, and he has said nothing substantive ever. His debate performance proves that the patented "stupid is as stupid does" smartass fratboy Bush approach is, once again, a winner with the public.

He is winning because he seems to be filling the role of "leader," a complete misaprehension because movie stars are pampered little princes who are kept away from any of the ugly necessities of leadership on a movie set. They are leaders only to the extent that they usually lead everyone around them to have a nervous breakdown, and Arnold is reputed to be as difficult as any in that respect. I am unaware of any "leadership" he has shown in the various failed investments he tries to pass off as business experience. His restaurant, Schatzi, sucks.

He is a "leader" because he plays a leading man in the movies, period.

Now please give me the lecture again about how off-base I am to argue that the Democrats must find a way to compete in the brand obsessed media environment. And don't forget to harrangue me about the great hoardes of Democrats who have been holding back their votes because the candidates haven't been liberal enough.

Read those numbers above. Democrats in the most Democratic state in the union are saying that they will vote in large numbers for a vapid GOP Hollywood celebrity asshole --- one who will undoubtedly be taking his marching orders from Karl Rove because he is incapable of doing the job on his own --- rather than keep the Democrat they voted for less than a year ago or the perfectly acceptable Democratic Lieutenant Governor they voted in the same election to be the person best to replace him.

We are our own worst enemy. If I could stomach their policies, I'd be tempted to become a Republican myself. At least they vote their own self interest.