My Nation magazine cover story on Arnold Schwarzennger can now be seen online.
In it, I trace the Governator's ongoing crash since the beginning of the year and assess his political future heading into a November 8 special election. Arnold called the election to pass a number of ballot initiatives which have all proven to be unpopular. His own popularity rating, meanwhile, continues in the tank. Read the whole piece, but here's an excerpt:
"One of two things is going to happen," says Republican consultant [Allan] Hoffenblum. "First scenario is this election degenerates into a fight between both party bases, a contest over who can turn out the most hard-core supporters." With the Democrats' sizable edge in party affiliation, that scenario would be grim for Schwarzenegger. "Second scenario is that Arnold is able to motivate some soft Democrats and independents by persuading them that redistricting and taking power away from the legislature are important issues." But that, says Hoffenblum, will be "very, very difficult" for the governor to pull off.
You'd think this sort of Republican gloominess would brighten the hearts of California Democrats. And you'd be right. But only in the short run. A recall effort, launched in October, is unlikely to get anywhere. And while the smart money figures on Schwarzenegger getting whipped in his own special election next month, most observers on both sides--at least in private--concede he's still the odds-on favorite for re-election a year from now.
The two declared Democratic candidates, State Controller Steve Westly and State Treasurer Phil Angelides, have little name recognition in populous Southern California. Westley is a wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and Angelides is a wealthy Northern California developer. Further complicating matters, the centrist Westley, a former eBay executive, is seen by many liberals as being too pro-business; Angelides's Bay Area liberalism might get in the way of attracting swing voters.
Little surprise, then, that so far Schwarzenegger's strongest Democratic critic has been his Hollywood compadre Warren Beatty. Sounding a tad like his movie character Jay Bulworth, Beatty has in the past few months verbally trounced Arnold in university and union venues, arguing that the governor "misled" Californians with his initial moderate pitch.
Beatty, whose political activism dates back to the 1960s, is an unlikely long shot to actually run against Schwarzenegger. But he told me he's not completely ruling it out. "Being as meticulously truthful as possible," Beatty said, "I'm saying I don't want to run for governor. But I do believe in public service, in giving back. We have two good men out there who have announced their intention to run against Arnold. But I don't close the door."