Man Without Qualities

Friday, August 08, 2003

Davis Descending XXII: Dud Prediction?

The Man Without Qualities impetuously predicted: Simon, McClintock and Ueberroth will throw their support to Arnold Schwarzenegger within days.

But Peter Ueberroth has announced his candidacy. And shortly after it became known that Arnold Schwarzenegger would join the race for California Governor Bill Simon said on television that he will file papers to appear on the recall ballot on Saturday, which is the final day to qualify. So Mr. Simon doesn't seem interested in bailing. [UPDATE: Bill Simon is now reported to have filed]. And McClintock has not shown any inclination to withdraw. So it looks like my prediction was a dud - at least at this point.

Of course, it's one thing to enter the race and quite another to allocate the kind of budget this will take. If his heart were in it, Mr. Ueberroth would probably make a much better governor than Gray Davis - so I have no problem with his entering the race, as such. But why has he waited until now, instead of trying for the governorship - or some other statewide position, such as Senator - at any time over the last 20 years? I had expected him to withdraw from the recall because he has declined so often in the past when he could have made a real difference and because his constituency - centrist, economically rational, socially liberalish voters - overlaps extensively with Arnold Schwarzenegger's. That means that he will likely deny both himself and Arnold Schwarzenegger the governorship if each of them spends the north of $15 Million needed to run meaningfully, and then lose. What's more, I had thought - and I still think - that Mr. Ueberroth doesn't believe in his own candidacy, which he seemed to confirm even as he declared that candidacy: "I’m going to give it a try, and I know it’s something of a longshot," said Mr. Ueberroth. Uh, sure, Peter. Whatever you say. It is just hard to believe that Mr. Ueberroth has the fire in the belly for this run. I still expect him to pull out, but I think it may take longer than I had thought.

In light of how well Mr. Simon did in the last election, he is certainly not a clear loser if he, too, is willing to spend another $20 Million. I expected Mr. Simon to withdraw if Mr. Ueberroth declined to enter because the Republican establishment seems to have favored (if not exactly endorsed) Mr. Schwarzenegger, because Mr. Simon had already spent so much of his own money in the last election, because he must be bruised and exhausted from the prior race with the Governor, and because Arnold Schwarzenegger is probably the stronger candidate - assuming his skeletons don't change his public profile too much. But with Mr. Ueberroth possibly splitting Arnold Schwarzenegger's constituency, the calculus for Mr. Simon is much more complex and uncertain. I still expect Mr. Simon to decline - but my sense is now much weaker.

As for Mr. McClintock - he has not been quoted recently to my knowledge, which is one reason I still expect him to withdraw. It is hard to understand what he gains by running without funding or media interest. But I suppose it is possible for him to leave his name on the list, but let the race die anyway.

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