Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Davis Descending XIII: Mr. Taranto Dissents

Best of the Web thinks Gray Davis is toast even after bringing in the California budget:

The filing deadline for the replacement ballot is a week from Saturday, and it's possible that the Democrats will remain unified behind Davis, so that only Republicans and minor-party candidates will appear on the replacement ballot. This is probably Davis's best shot at holding onto his office; since Democrats hold a decided edge in California, the lack of options, combined with get-out-the-vote efforts aimed at interest groups loyal to the Dems, could push Davis over 50%.

We wouldn't bet the farm on it, though. Back in March, we noted that a poll had found "an unnamed Democrat would edge out President Bush." The problem, of course, is that in "an unnamed Democrat" can't actually run in a presidential race. Instead of their ideal or preferred choices, voters next November will have to choose between the incumbent and one of the actual guys now running--all of whom were losing to Bush in that same poll.

But the California recall actually does pit Davis against an unnamed candidate. And Davis is a lot more unpopular than Bush. Party loyalty may be enough to persuade most registered Democrats to vote for the governor--but that'll still leave him well below the 50% threshold. For this reason, we'd be very surprised to see Davis survive.

I wish it were true that Sweet Baby James were right - and I'm wrong - on this one. But, as I noted in the prior post on this topic, the worst the Governor has been doing in any poll that I know of is in that new internal poll by the California teachers union that reportedly shows him with a recall winning by a 57-43 margin. His ratings should be on the rise after the budget deal - and he doesn't have to go all that far to beat the 50% mark.

Worse, if there is only one major opposition candidate and its not a Democrat, then Mr. Davis is back on his home turf of demonizing his opponent. Best of the Web is right, in my opinion, that the California recall actually does pit Davis against an unnamed candidate - and that works against this incumbent. But if there is only one major opposition candidate, the Governor can probably recast the vote as de facto Davis against that candidate.

Unleash the demons of August and September!

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