No, Don’t Recall Him

Not to throw cold water on things immediately, but I’m a little skeptical of Mark’s call for recalling the Governator.

Schwarzenegger 2.0 has turned out to be a much better Governor than I originally thought he would be. For the most part, this is due to his abandonment of Republican orthodoxy on a lot of things, most prominently climate change and health care. He’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but imagine the policy trajectory if either Gray Davis or Cruz Bustamante had been in the governor’s chair: one could easily imagine things being far, far worse. True: Davis signed far-reaching climate and health care bills in 2003, but this was only under threat of a recall and a desire to please the base. He never would have done this in normal political times. As for Bustamante, let’s not go there: the man is an irresponsible and probably corrupt political hack who repeatedly sold out his own constituents for major agribusiness interests.

Mark is unquestionably right to note Schwarzenegger’s irresponsible tax cut pledge in 2003. But it too easy to say that he lacks the “leadership skills and guts” to force through a tax increase. Under California budget rules, one simply can’t force through these things: they require a 2/3 vote of Legislature, and the toddler-based governing philosophy of the state GOP just won’t permit this. Instead, he has done precisely the best option since then: negotiate a pretty decent (although again far from perfect) health care package that relies on some tax increases (excuse me, fee increases) to increase accessibility. And he has been right to insist on an individual mandate.

Schwarzenegger seems to me to represent the reincarnation of old-fashioned Republican moderates that characterized the California GOP before it was twisted by Ronald Reagan. Unlike other so-called Republican moderates, he is actually doing things on the environment and health care. I’m quite skeptical of the Democrats producing someone who would do more. Angelides would have been a far better Governor, but, well, he lost the election. We’d probably wind up with a moral cretin like Dianne Feinstein. I’ll stick with Arnold, thanks.

Meet the 2008 Republican nominee

It was only a matter of time before John McCain’s support started cratering: his whole appeal was his independence, so when he sacrificed that, it figured to erode his standing. Combine that with his uber-hawkish position on Iraq, and it’s no surprise that he is rapidly losing popularity.

Who fills the gap? Not Mitt Romney: his flip-flopping on social issues will, I believe, seriously injure him both in Republican primaries and with the GOP elite. He’s damaged goods. Not Rudy Giuliani, who at least is more honest than Romney about his positions, but as Stuart Rothenberg persuasively argues, kills him with the Republican base.

Who does that leave?

Meet Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. He’s a Baptist minister, conservative enough for the base, outsider enough for the electorate, and he carries the argument that he can work across the aisle. He’s an outstanding politician, and will be able to make the outsider argument better than anyone else in the field. Put another way, he’s the George W. Bush of 2008. In fact, I think his whole argument will be about changing the tone in Washington.

Yes, I know: it was garbage when Bush said it, and it’s garbage when Huckabee says it. But that doesn’t matter.

The Republicans aren’t stupid, and they are still a tightly organized ship. They will look for someone who is right-wing but doesn’t really seem like it. That’s Huckabee, and given everyone else’s flaws, they will, I believe, turn to him. The key is whether he can get funding.

If it happens, you heard it here first. The 2008 Republican nominee will be Mike Huckabee, and he will be a formidable challenger. We’d better start the opposition research now.

Two Talking Points for Harold Ford

1. If Bob Corker can’t even get his own ad removed, what kind of leader would he be in the United States Senate?

(Yes, I know: theoretically it’s an independent expenditure. Let Corker try to explain that.)

2. Get someone to ask Ford about pundits who wonder about the ability of a southern state to elect an African-American to the Senate:

“I’m sick and tired of northerners pretending that they are so pure on race. They’re not. Where is the African-American senator from New York? Where is the African-American senator from Michigan? Where is the African-American senator from Pennsylvania? Or California? I’m glad Barack Obama is in the Senate, but let the northerners clean up their act up there before lecturing us here.”

Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook forsees a “tidal wave” election.

I’m a lousy political handicapper because my emotions get in the way. Charlie Cook, by contrast, is a pro, and one of the best. That’s not to say that he has a crystal ball, only that his analysis is likely to reflect a fair assessment of currently available information.

Cook’s latest thoughts (available through a free email subscription) make pleasant reading for Democrats:

With fewer than 100 days left before the Nov. 7 election, certain assumptions can now be made, contingent upon the absence of a cataclysmic event.

First, the political climate will be extremely hostile to Republican candidates. Second, while Republicans benefited from turnout in 2002 and 2004, this time voter turnout will benefit Democratic candidates. And third, the advantage that the GOP usually has in national party spending will be significantly less than normal.


In the House, where Democrats need a 15-seat gain to win a majority, Republicans have 15 seats that the Cook Political Report currently rates as toss-ups. No Democratic seats remain in that column. Another 21 GOP seats are rated as leaning Republican.

In a very large tidal-wave election, as this one appears to be, it would not be unusual to see all toss-ups go to one party, along with a few out of the leaning column as well. Republicans might lose their House majority just in the seats in which they are behind or in which their edge is within a poll’s margin of error.

In the Senate, while it is easy to get Democrats to a four- or five-seat net gain, six is tougher. But keep in mind that in the last four non-wave elections, between 67 and 89 percent of the races rated as “toss-ups” in the final Cook Political Report pre-election ratings broke toward one party each time, a domino effect, with the close races breaking toward the party with momentum.

This does not mean that Republicans no longer have any chance of holding onto their House or even Senate majorities. But every day that passes between now and Nov. 7 where their poll numbers look this bad, the climb back gets incrementally steeper and more difficult.

Sometimes a party wins by losing; as horrible as the 2004 result was for the country, it was probably good for the Democrats as a party, and bad for conservatism as a political orientation. But this isn’t one of those times. Two years’ worth of hearings into Bush Administration malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance would make excellent background music for the 2008 Presidential election. Orwell’s comment that control of the present gives control of the past, and thus of the future, is less true under current circumstances than under the rule of Big Brother and his Party, but it’s true nonetheless.

Wouldn’t this be an excellent time to write a couple of checks?