AUGUST 27, 2003 – If you’ve been
following coverage of the recall, you may notice the contortions
reporters are doing these days to refrain from reporting a simple
“Davis called Bustamante the most
qualified candidate on the second part of the ballot, but stopped
short of endorsing him,” a radio report on LA radio station KFWB
reported today. Numerous stories echo the same story, about how
labor unions, Davis, and the Democratic Party are praising and
complimenting Bustamante, but stopping short of endorsing him.
The reality behind this is simple, and
it is surprising these other news sources don’t simply report it.
State election law allows Gray Davis and the Democratic Party to
spend and raise as much money as it can on the recall – with no
limits on per donor giving – as long as they are just fighting the
recall and not endorsing a particular candidate. If the party
endorses Bustamante, then there becomes a $3500 per donor limit.
So, now when you hear and read the
reports over the next month and half reporting how Davis, yet again,
stopped short of officially praising Bustamante, or how the state
Democratic Party stopped short of officially endorsing, “No on
recall, yes on Bustamante,” but instead left it at, “No on recall,
Bustamante is a good man in my opinion,” you will understand why.
As for the Republicans, they are using
their usual two prong approach: 1) try to get as many people who
agree with you registered to vote, in particular via absentee
ballots, and 2) try and trick as many Democrats or opponents of the
recall out of voting.
In this particular election, absentee
voting will be an enormous advantage, because while usually there
are around 4,500 polling places California voters can use, this time
there will only be around 1,800, due to the rushed nature of the
election. So, it is no exaggeration to expect to have to wait
several hours in poorly organized lines to vote – unless you vote by
More interestingly, though, is the
second part of the Republican strategy. They have gotten the
precinct lists from the Registrar’s office and have been calling
registered Democrats. They refuse to say their names or what party
they are with, ask the caller if they will vote in the recall and
which way they will vote. If the person says they will vote against
the recall, the caller says, “Great, I will send you a form to
register for an absentee ballot.”
It may sound like this is just a
Democrat or anti-recall advocate doing Democrats a favor, but the
reality, as confirmed by Democratic insiders, is that the Democrats
have not started making any calls yet – that will just begin this
week. These callers are Republicans who promise to send forms to
register for absentee ballots or to register to vote which will
never arrive – leaving the poor, unsuspecting Democrat without the
ability to vote on election day or forced to go trudge out into the
As for on the table strategy, Democrats
are framing this as a chance to stop the Bush Republican power
grab. California has shown itself to be a bastion of sanity in the
past, they say, and this is an opportunity to show the President
before next election that California will not be made into the next
Florida. In addition, they are reporting numerous calls from
Democrats in other states who are very worried that if this succeeds
it will be the start of a new trend. The Democrats use this as fuel
to fire up the party faithful.
Republicans are trying to keep things
focused on Gray Davis and his record, and to keep people remembering
how resentful they are of what he has done to the state. The
message may be getting lost a bit in the moment as they squabble
within about who should or shouldn’t drop out of the race and deal
with the surprise challenge they didn’t expect – Bustamante, a
candidate that reversed the previous advantage Republican
frontrunner Schwarzenegger had early on.
Publicly, there are calls for McClintock
and Ueberroth to drop out. In private, the murmurs are beginning to
appear that Arnold should exit – McClintock seems to be more
formidable and the base is better able to get fired up about him.
The talk by Warren Buffet of raising property taxes has played a
definite role in this, but more tangibly it is Arnold’s inability or
refusal to date to talk more than base level rhetoric about any
issue. California Republicans care about the issues deeply, and as
much as they want Davis out, they want to make sure they are getting
someone better for them in there.
The segment of Republicans who think the
recall is, “BS,” as several have told us, will still vote for it.
“These people were the first to
criticize the looting after the (1991 LA) riots,” said one
Democratic activist. “But it seems they are not so different