Carol Platt Liebau: Misreading the Golden State

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Misreading the Golden State

David Broder continues to push for a "moderate" GOP presidential contender, citing Schwarzenegger's success here in California as support for the proposition that a GOP presidential candidate could win the state.

But Broder miscalculates in several ways. First, he sees Arnold's easy coast to reelection as an endorsement of the way he's run the state. That's not so much true. It's rather a reflection of the fact that Arnold's competitor, Phil Angelides, is so uncharismatic and so far left that Republicans are forced to support the governor, especially given that he hasn't raised taxes. Likewise, among Democrats, Angelides himself is unpopular, and most of them are happy to see Schwarzenegger win again, both because it means they can try for the post in four years rather than eight -- and because they've pretty well brought Arnold to heel. These days, the "Governator" doesn't do anything that with which his Democratic masters (and his wife) disagree. As a result, not much good gets done, but Schwarzenegger is embraced by the Democrats and remains politically viable . . . great for him, not so great for the state.

A presidential election would be much different. First, enthusiasm for the party's national candidate is generally widespread (even if misplaced), and state Democratic leaders aren't likely to be willing to take a powder in that election like they are in this one. What's more, much of Schwarzenegger's political appeal comes not from his positions, but from his persona -- at least so long as he isn't attracting negative press from the Democrats by disagreeing with them. That fact works in his favor, but isn't likely to help another Republican candidate without that "star" quality.

Finally, whoever the Republican presidential candidate is, it would be nice if he had a few convictions -- and what we've learned, sadly, is that with Arnold, they're painfully hard to find.


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