Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has gotten himself into what appears to be a no-win situation. He’s put his political future on the line by forcing voters to hold a special election to vote on a rack of propositions dealing with issues that very few people care about. This move has cost him the support of decided majorities of both Democrats and swing voters in poll after poll.
He still retains the support of the GOP base but there aren’t enough registered Republicans in California to win an election. The bind he’s in is caused by the fact that he can’t afford to lose the support of this base under any circumstances, so he must dance to the rightwing agenda, even on issues where he himself hold centristl views:
Schwarzenegger’s challenge was on clear display over the weekend. On Saturday in Orange County, he roused a state Republican convention crowd with tough talk on blocking higher taxes, battling “union bosses” in Sacramento and stopping illegal immigrants from getting driver’s licenses.
On Sunday in South Los Angeles, the Republican governor adjusted his message. Speaking to parishioners at a black church, he played up his wife’s Kennedy family pedigree, government aid to fight poverty and the struggle for “equal education.”
In a state where barely one in three voters is a registered Republican, Schwarzenegger has no choice but to reach beyond his party base.
But with the Nov. 8 special election just over seven weeks away, he must find a way to do that without turning off conservatives, his only strong bloc of support after months of declining popularity. This raises the question: How much of a Republican can Schwarzenegger afford to be…?
In the recall, candidates ran with no party labels. Schwarzenegger’s Hollywood fame made him an instant favorite. With no record as an elected official, he was easily able to define himself as a centrist in sync with mainstream California, a fiscal conservative with moderate-to-liberal views on such social issues as abortion, guns and gay rights.