Can Schwarzenegger Hand Bush California?
As implausible as it seems, Bob Novak argues that “Schwarzenegger may hold key to president’s re-election.”
With polls showing any Democrat easily winning the state against Bush in 2004, many Republican leaders around the country are skeptical about pouring millions of dollars into the bottomless pit that is the nation’s most populous state. Bush strategist Karl Rove was criticized in 2000 for spending funds in California that could have better been utilized elsewhere — to no avail because Al Gore easily carried the state. Gerald Parsky, the Los Angeles investment banker who is the president’s personal political agent in California, arrived in New York on Sunday determined to show the Bush high command that his state is not out of reach. The most recent public survey, the Field Poll completed Aug. 4, showed an 11-percentage-point lead by Kerry in California. That is no bigger a Democratic margin than was then shown in Pennsylvania, which is considered a battleground state.
While it’s certainly true that, as recently as 1988, Republicans won California every election cycle, it’s almost inconceivable that a social conservative could carry it now. Pennsylvania is considered in play because Republicans, including conservatives like Rick Santorum, have a history of winning there.
Parsky’s plea is to send the president out West to travel the state with the immensely popular Schwarzenegger, breathing life into what had seemed the corpse of the California Republican Party. The governor’s approval rating, according to the most recent Field Poll, was a stratospheric 65 percent.
Less than two years ago, the 57-year-old, Austrian-born former body builder seemed unlikely to even be a delegate at the New York convention. His victory in last year’s unprecedented recall election was a personal rather than a party triumph, but Bush, Jones and other Republicans could take advantage of that windfall.
Kerry would be described to Californians as a national version of former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis — who was ousted by Schwarzenegger — a high-tax, high-spending Democrat.
It might make sense for Bush to barnstorm the state with Schwarzenegger if the campaign believes it will help candidates down the ticket. And campaigning with the popular figure may help with swing voters elsewhere, since the footage would be shown on television everywhere. But the only way I see Bush carrying California is if the bottom falls out of the Kerry campaign and we have a 1988-style blowout.