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Tuesday, November 2, 2004
Sacramento Bee 11-2-04
Daniel Weintraub: Tidbits from an election coverage notebook
California is the land presidential politics left behind.
It doesn't matter whether we hold our primary in March or in June, or whether the national race is close or a blowout. Bill Clinton was a surprise winner here in 1992 after years of Republican dominance, and he showered the state with affection for eight years. But since we have become reliably Democrat, nobody seems to care.
President Bush never really grasped California, and he wrote us off early in his re-election effort. It will take an Arnold Schwarzenegger-style Republican to make the state competitive, and interesting, again.
Speaking of which, the governor, in an interview on CBS' 60 Minutes, admitted the obvious: He would love to run for president if the U.S. Constitution were amended to allow naturalized citizens to serve.
"Why not?" he asked. "I mean, you know, anyone with my way of thinking, you always shoot for the top."
Polls show that Californians would rather Schwarzenegger not think about it, and focus on being a good governor instead. The more he talks about running for president, the lower his approval ratings will go.
Was the weirdest moment in the California 2004 campaign season that ad featuring former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, sporting long hair and a beard, bashing Schwarzenegger for opposing Proposition 70, the Indian gambling expansion initiative? Talk about your political non sequiturs.
Whenever I am in town on Election Day, I always try to vote in my precinct rather than using an absentee ballot. I like the feel of lining up with my neighbors to exercise the fundamental right in a democratic republic. And I like to see whether there is a big crowd or not, and the mood of the other voters. Thank goodness we don't have to risk our lives to stand in those lines.
Most interesting California Assembly race: Republican Steve Poizner's longshot bid for a seat representing the Silicon Valley. The district was drawn for Democrats but Poizner, who made a fortune designing GPS tracking systems that could be used in cell phones, has spent millions of his own money running as an independent Republican, eschewing official party support but aligning himself with Schwarzenegger. Odds still favor Democrat Ira Ruskin, as the presidential election will tend to accentuate party-line voting. But Poizner would add some needed centrist spice to the Republican caucus in Sacramento.
The sleeper proposition on today's ballot is Proposition 59, a constitutional amendment to clarify the state's public records act. Short and sweet, it is intended to make it more difficult for public officials to hide public documents. It doesn't go as far as I'd like, but it's better than what we have now, which is an increasingly secretive government protected by bad court decisions. The key words: "The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny." Amen.
The final Field Poll before the election revealed, again, how California is really two states in one. Along the coast and especially in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, California is a "blue" state heavily favoring John Kerry. But the spine of the state from the Oregon border down the Central Valley, plus Southern California outside of Los Angeles, is as "red" as they come and big for Bush.
The pro-Bush bastions represent only about one-fourth of the California electorate, but if they were a state by themselves, they would probably be among the president's top five bases of support nationally.
I'm intrigued by the results of the frequently used poll question that asks voters who they think will win the presidential election, regardless of who they support. Bush seems to win this one every time. Even though the horse race polls have been up and down or too close to call for weeks, a large majority of Republicans expect their candidate to win, while Democrats tend to be more pessimistic about Kerry's chances, with most saying the outcome is too close to call. Is it just a presumption for the incumbent, or do Bush supporters reflect their candidate's certitude while Kerry backers share his tendency toward nuance?
The California Voter Foundation says that by mid-October, nearly $200 million was raised by supporters and opponents of the 16 propositions on the California ballot, a new record. Given the wall-to-wall television commercials on those issues, this news probably doesn't surprise you.
From the California recall a year ago through the presidential election, everyday folks - those not connected to the system - seem more energized about politics than at any time in my memory. It's too bad it takes a movie star or a war to get them that way. But it looks as if a record number of Californians will be going to the polls today, or voting by one means or another. Here's hoping that the election is clean and that the candidates, and the people, accept the results, whatever they may be.
These news clips are provided by the Public Affairs Department of The California State University. They are intended for the internal use of The California State University system and should not be redistributed. Questions and submissions may be sent to email@example.com.