Man Without Qualities

Friday, August 15, 2003

Davis Descending XXVIII: He's Not Dead Yet

Poor Gray Davis. The media longs to consign him to the grave more hurriedly than greedy heirs ringing a miser's bed. The Los Angeles Times today runs the breathless headline: Poll Shows Growing Support for Davis Recall:

The number of Californians supporting the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis has grown over the last month, results of a statewide poll released today show. The nonpartisan Field Poll found that 58% of likely California voters want Davis out of office, up from 51% last month.

The only problem is that it may not really be true. Last month an internal poll by the California teachers union already showed him losing the recall vote by a 57-43 margin. Poll methodologies differ - and that could account for at least some of the discrepancy. But it is also arguable that even with all the Arnold hooplah and all the Democratic cannibalism and all the general kvetching --- that Gray Davis' recall poll numbers have, in fact, stabilized, even if his approval rating has continued to fall.

Further, this stabilization has occurred - if it has occurred - before the Governor has spent any money on a real campaign. Arnold Schwarzenegger's assumption of the role of Mr. Davis' de factor sole opponent means that Mr. Davis' customary demonization campaign strategy can now be employed.

Even the East Coast power outage may help him by reminding Californians that power troubles are everywhere now, and allowing him to minimize his role in the 2000 disaster. He's already seeing the opportunity for redemption: Davis told CNN's Larry King Live show on Thursday that the power crisis may return as an issue in the special election. "People may try and go back and second-guess what we did, but I would like to know what they would do when Enron had manipulated the market," Davis said. "We had a problem of not enough capacity plus the energy companies were ripping us off big time."

Of course, Mr. Davis is in very big trouble: "Movement is always the most significant element of a poll like this, and we are seeing continued movement toward the recall," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. "And attitudes toward the recall are very firm, since people have come to their judgments of Davis over a long period of time."

But last month's internal poll by the California teachers union shows that there may not be as much "movement" against the Governor as this Field poll suggests.

He's not dead yet, and anyone who thinks he is just doesn't understand Gray Davis' real capabilities.

ON ANOTHER POINT: Don Luskin is right on target condemning Arnold Schwarzenegger's terrible decision to engage Warren Buffett as his advisor. That and Mr. Schwarzenegger's other terrible decision of embracing Pete Wilson's old team, raises real questions about Mr. Schwarzenegger's judgment and his usefullness in solving California's multiple crises.

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