I’ve seen most of the California recall debate. Frankly, it hasn’t been very productive owing to the combination of an amazingly timid moderator and the inclusion of too many fringe candidates. My impression of the major players:

    Bustamante: I’d say he won the debate, even though I disagree with him on most of the issues. He was calm, actually answered the questions, and thoughtful.

    McClintock: The candidate I most agreed with. He was the only one with the guts to take the unpopular stand that illegal immigrants are, well, illegal. He was also the only one that seemed to grasp that having the government classify people by race was more likely to result in racial bias than not classifying by race.

    Schwarzenegger: He was fairly entertaining and had some good answers. But he didn’t get away from the canned responses, issued contradictory proposals, and didn’t answer the questions.

    Huffington: Rude and a moron. Why was she invited, let alone allowed to hijack most of the debate with her vitriol, given her non-existent standing in the polls two weeks from election?

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Eric says:

    Good analysis (even if I’m about as far to the left of center as you are to the right). You didn’t mention Camejo, whose “tax the rich” mantra got old when he repeated it for the 20th time. The loser were Huffington, who was obnoxious and failed to focus on California issues, and Schwarznegger, who was good with platitudes but showed little knowledge of the facts.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Thanks. I mentioned Camejo (along with Huffington) as “too many fringe candidates.” Damn, it sure seemed like more! But I didn’t expect anything different from the Green Party guy; that’s what they do. They’re sort of the opposite of the Libertarians.

    Huffington was phenomenally obnoxious, though, even by her standards.

  3. melvin toast says:

    Survey USA did a snap poll of 579 registered voters last night asking who they thought won the debate. The results were: 32% Arnold, 22% McClintock, 13% Bustamante

  4. James Joyner says:


    Clearly, what appeals to a mass audience is different than what appeals to a political scientist. I like Arnold personally, but don’t think he did particularly well; that’s clearly not reflected in mass opinion. I didn’t know much about Bustamante, but was pleasantly surprised with his performance.