Chris Suellentrop has an amusing assessment of Cruz Bustamante’s campaign, which

[B]oasts what is no doubt the most unwieldy URL in the short history of online politics: It’s an appropriately awkward name for an awkward campaign with an awkward candidate.

What’s so awkward?

[It] appears to be the result of a late-night bar bet among political consultants: How many contradictions can dance on the head of a candidate? Bustamante is against the people who organized the recall effort (they’re “hijacking democracy”) but not the people who signed the petitions (“they’re not part of some kind of a conspiracy”). He’s opposed to the recall (or at least the “recall process”), but he hasn’t endorsed Davis (“I think the governor can praise himself”). And it’s not clear what exactly Bustamante dislikes about the recall process. He’s not categorically opposed to ballot initiatives designed to thwart the results of the most recent election: He’s declared that, if as governor he couldn’t get his economic plan through the duly elected legislature, he would do an end-run around that whole electing-representatives process by putting his plan on the ballot for the voters to decide directly.

A difficult act to be sure. But, so far, so good:

The secret of Bustamante’s success so far is his ability to be both anti-recall and anti-Davis at the same time. By differentiating between the process of the recall and the person of the governor, Bustamante has managed to promote an unspoken campaign message that’s effectively, No on Recall, No on Davis, Yes on Bustamante. On Meet the Press last week, Bustamante trumpeted his “different style” and “different way of doing things” than Davis. Later in the week, when reporters told him that his budget solutions sounded similar to Davis’, Bustamante made subtle jabs at the governor to distinguish himself: “I’ve been in the Legislature. I understand the way budgets work. I believe I have a certain style and an ability to bring people together.” The “No on Recall, No on Davis” strategy was never more apparent than when National Public Radio’s Alex Chadwick asked Bustamante on the Slate-NPR radio show Day to Day, “Would you honestly prefer that Gray Davis survived this recall rather than becoming governor yourself?” Bustamante niftily dodged the question by ignoring the subject of Gray Davis while insisting that the “recall process is bad.”

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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.