Not as Dumb as We Look: Bustamante Ahead

The same LA Times poll that showed Round I tightening, with the Yes side up only 50-45, showed Bustamante with a huge lead over Schwarzenegger, 35-22. Simon, who just dropped out, had only 6%, and not all of that will go to Schwarzenegger. Moreover, the poll shows Cruz with good net positive favorability, 48-29; Schwarzenegger’s is a much less impressive 46-44. (See, I told you [*]everyone was misunderestimating the intelligence of the the California electorate.)[*]

That the findings in the LA Times poll were better for both Davis and Bustamante than those of the other polls makes me wonder a little bit whether the sample or the weighting was somehow skewed toward Democrats; on the other hand, it might just mean that the situation is very fluid and polling a few days later produced a much different result.

What seems to be happening is that Schwarzenegger is caught in the same vise that always catches moderate Republicans in California; on the one hand, he needs to edge right to capture votes from the true believers, but on the other hand, when he does that, he puts himself out of the California mainstream. He’s doing much better among the conservatives, both in California and nationally. [*] Rush Limbaugh, without actually taking back any of the nasty things he said about Aaaahnold earlier, is now saying nice things about him, as is Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Justice, who no doubt sees in Schwarzenegger’s candidacy an opportunity to advance his announced goal of having at least on state government go bankrupt. [*] But the more conservative AS is, the less of a shot he has at getting the independent votes he needs to compete.

The White House has signalled its support for Schwarzenegger and has probably been doing some of the behind-the-scenes muscling that got Issa and Simon out of the race and is now presumably focusing on Ueberroth and McClintock. They clearly don’t care what he has to say to get elected; after all, who should know better than they how easy it is to campaign as a moderate and govern as an extremist? But the rank and file tends to be less knowledgeable and more sincere. Schwarzenegger hasn’t paid his dues with them the way Bush did, and now he’s suffering for it. (Still unspoken is any concern the California right wing — Clinton-haters every one — might have about Schwarzenegger’s personal life, but again it’s hard to believe that those concerns aren’t present below the surface.)

Whatever you think of the absolute numbers in the new poll, it reinforces my conviction that Democratic effort ought to be going into supporting Bustamante in Round II rather than “No” (i.e., Davis) in Round I. If Davis is down 5 when Bustamante is up 13, it’s hard to tell a story where Davis survives Round I but Schwarzenegger comes out ahead in round II.

Be that as it may, the timing couldn’t be better for Bustamante. He was having trouble raising money, with less than $300k in the door as of Friday. Now the wallets of those who need access to the governor’s office should start to open up for him.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: