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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ed says:


    Bush doesn’t have to carry California to be successful there. If he makes it close (7 points?), and invests *some* resources in the state, he’ll force Kerry to invest time and resources in California – and away from other states. The latest Rasmussen California poll has Kerry with a 9-point lead in California. A two-day swing through the state with Arnold could make it even closer. Does Kerry just sit back and watch, or would he move people and money from other states to counter it?

    If the Democrats lose California, it’d be political Armageddon. No way they could afford to chance it.

  2. Boyd says:

    Isn’t that kind of a zero-sum game, Ed? In order to get Kerry to expend resources in California, Bush has to expend them as well. While I agree that such a swing through The People’s Republic of California could be beneficial, to actually make it worthwhile it would have to provide more benefit then using those resources elsewhere.

    I suppose that’s possible, but I haven’t seen anyone make the case for it.

  3. The question is: would Arnold barnstorm the state with Dubya? I’m not certain he would. However, if he would, I think there is a slim chance that in fact, yes, Arnold could help Bush win CA.

  4. McGehee says:

    The question is: would Arnold barnstorm the state with Dubya? I’m not certain he would.

    Why wouldn’t he?

  5. Michael Newton says:

    But why should Bush waste his time in California? If Bush is able to win California, he would have to be so many points on Kerry nationwide that California’s electoral votes won’t change anything. Bush needs to win Missouri, Ohio and Florida. After that, spend time in Wisconsin and Colorado (to help Coors as well as win the state). No need to waste time in California.

  6. Attila Girl says:

    I’m not so sure FL will be that close, if the panhandle really shows up.

    But I think my own state (CA) is a lost cause.

  7. ATM says:

    Maybe he should run against the California Democratic Party, the one that seems to want to increase state spending and overtax and overregulate California businesses and thus force them out of the state. He should say that he is there to help Arnold by helping elect state senators and legislators that will undo the damage inflicted upon the state by the California Democratic Party. He should point out that other states have seen a greater drop in unemployment rates than California over the last year, and suggest that state specific factors are to blame and that they should look at Sacramento as the problem. He should say that California is important to the nation because of the large population and the signficant fraction of national economic activity that occurs in the state. The first step was getting rid of Gray Davis, the second is getting rid of the rest of the incumbent Democrats in Sacramento. Now I know they won’t get rid of many of the Democrats, but they just might get rid of some. But it will also help with the turnout the vote effort if you can link it to some state specific issue that will draw out voters that lean your way.