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Arnold, Coasting

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Arnold was assured re-election the moment the Democrats in California nominated Phil Angelides.

The Los Angeles Times confirmed the widespread dismissal of the Angelides campaign today with a story on the attempt by Angelides to transform himself into a tax cutter: “Angelides Proposes Tax Cuts.”  The sub-head is a quick summary of the desperate condition Angelides faces: “He hopes to reinvigorate his run for governor with the $1.4-billion proposal, which would mostly benefit middle-class residents.”

There’s a certain sadness in this graph:

“We can put our tax code back on the side of middle-class families and small businesses,” Angelides told more than 100 applauding supporters in Hollywood.

Wally Cox isn’t going to get the girl, Barney Fife isn’t going to get to load his bullet, and Phil Angelides isn’t going to get close to Arnold.

Arnold thus has the opportunity to get a mandate for something.

The Governator has been campaigning on infrastructure needs, which means the right to spend a lot on planning because given California’s environmental laws, litigation-happy activists and the executive branch bureaucracies that Arnold has left unreformed, no major new project will actually happen.  There won’t be a new campus, a new connector tunnel, a new high speed train.  There won’t even be the conclusion of previously approved toll road in south Orange County.

Bridges will get repairs and a few widening projects will proceed.  “Arnold, repairer of bridges”  –this is how he wants to be remembered?

Because California is such a large map on which to work, its governor’s do get remembered, for better or worse.  Gray Davis was defined by the power crisis, Pete Wilson by his competent handling of major disaster after major disaster and for his embrace of Prop 187.Pat Brown was a builder, Jerry Brown a pop icon and the anti-builder, and George Deukmejian the law and order governor.  Reagan, of course, was Reagan.

Running up a big margin on a mismatched opponent is like Ali beating up on a stiff.  There’s no mandate in such a circumstance, and the veteran reader of scripts that Arnold is knows this.  He can make the next 80 days interesting if he defines a big goal and tells folks that in addition to his spending, he’s aiming to devote a full term to [  ].

Until he does, the only interesting thing about the California campaign is whether Arnold can help Chuck Poochigian become the Attorney General by reminding voters that they really, really don’t want Jerry Brown in charge of key aspects of counter-terrorism in the Golden State.



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