updated 10/10/2003 2:09:50 PM ET 2003-10-10T18:09:50

September 19, 2003 / 5:53 p.m. ET

Here’s the latest in the recall’s legal drama: According to the AP, the 9th Circuit today announced it will revisit the earlier decision from its three-judge panel, which called to postpone the recall election because many Californians would be using flawed punch-card ballots.

“Without commenting on the merits, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would convene an 11-member panel to consider the timing of the vote on whether to recall Gov. Gray Davis. For the moment, Friday’s action delays a likely appeal to the Supreme Court.”

The oral arguments will occur at 4:00 p.m. ET on Monday. And NBC’s George Lewis has just learned that this 11-person panel will consist of seven judges appointed by Bill Clinton, two by Ronald Reagan, one by George H.W. Bush, and one by Jimmy Carter. For those who don’t want to do the math, that’s eight Democrats versus three Republicans.

Here’s the breakdown:

Chief Judge Mary Schroeder (Carter)

Alex Kozinksi (Reagan)

Diarmuid O’Scannlain (Reagan)

Andrew Kleinfeld (Bush)

A. Wallace Tashima (Clinton)

Barry Silverman (Clinton)

Susan Graber (Clinton)

M. Margaret McKeown (Clinton)

Ronald Gould (Clinton)

Richard Tallman (Clinton)

Johnnie Rawlinson (Clinton)

The San Jose Mercury News says that the “decision to reconsider that ruling does not necessarily mean it will be overturned, but it is a strong indication that a majority of the court is troubled enough by the outcome to have a larger panel of judges review the legal challenge from civil rights groups.”

Recall Quote of the Day

We missed this yesterday, but it’s so good we’ve got to include it: “My vision is to make the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on the earth in this state. We have the sons and daughters of every, of people from every planet, of every country on earth.” — Gray Davis responding to a question about his vision for California during his town hall appearance on Wednesday.

With that statement, we’ve got to believe that Davis now has the state’s Martian and Trekkie vote locked up.

September 18, 2003 / 12:35 p.m. ET

Today we’re forced to slightly turn our attention from the political storm in California to a real storm here on the East Coast. With Hurricane Isabel approaching our offices in Washington, D.C., we’re posting our column a little earlier than usual — just in case we need to head home for cover. Here goes ...

He didn’t participate in the Cruz-Arianna-McClintock-Camejo debate last night, but Arnold did talk with some of America’s hardest-hitting journalists: Howard Stern and Larry King. This afternoon in Sacramento, however, he might face some tougher questions when he unveils his political reform plan.

The Los Angeles Times highlights his appearance on Stern’s show. “Stern introduced Schwarzenegger Wednesday as ‘governor’ and noted repeatedly that his guest ‘has been a friend of the show.’ His questions included lighthearted queries about whether Gov. Gray Davis might star in a ‘Terminator 4’ and why the Los Angeles City Council had banned lap dancing.”

“Stern also pressed Schwarzenegger to give him an official title if the actor is elected governor.”

Referring to his recent interviews with Stern, King, and Oprah, the L.A. Times adds that Arnold seems to be “pulling back slightly from a recent effort to be more accessible to the political press and is concentrating, instead, on venues where he is assured of a friendly reception.”

The New York Post, however, does report on some hard news that came from Arnold’s appearance on Stern’s show: that Arnold plans to funnel $10 million of his own money into his campaign. “It’s costing me a fortune right now, but you know, it’s worth it,” he told Stern. “The campaign will cost around $22 million. I’ve put up already a few million dollars and it’ll increase to about $10 million.”

The Post also notes that Stern handled Arnold “with kid gloves,” while the shock jock attacked Bustamante and McClintock.

The Sacramento Bee’s Daniel Weintraub has more: “Stern brought up Cruz Bustamante’s use of the ‘N-word’ and asked why that wasn’t getting more attention. Schwarzenegger said ‘everybody makes a mistake’ and that’s not what has put California in a bad way. Stern asked him if he wanted that ‘other jerk-off’ Republican to get out of the race, and Arnold brushed off the question, saying he just needed to get his supporters to the polls.”

At his seventh town hall meeting yesterday - this one in Sacramento - Davis once again promised to stay more connected with Californians, the Sacramento Bee reports. “‘There’s one thing I regret not doing is keeping in touch with the people of this state,’ the Democratic governor said.”

In addition, the Los Angeles Times writes that Davis appeared yesterday with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, and he also took plenty of shots at Arnold.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Cruz blasted Arnold in last night’s debate. “The harsh criticism of Schwarzenegger on the debate issue represented a tough new stance by Bustamante, the front-runner, who is slightly ahead of Schwarzenegger in polls.”

“‘It’s really unfortunate that we have a situation in which Arnold decides not to come to the debate,’ Bustamante said, noting that the one debate Schwarzenegger has agreed to is one in which the candidates will get their questions in advance. That forum is set for Sept. 24 at California State University, Sacramento.”

The Chronicle notes, however, that Bustamante received criticism on campaign finance issues from two of the other participants, McClintock and Arianna.

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times reports that Bustamante challenged “rivals Tom McClintock, Arianna Huffington and Peter Camejo to skip a Sacramento forum next week with Schwarzenegger. Bustamante said they should ‘leave Arnold in there with his movie-script answers and have the rest of us go outside’ and hold a forum with spontaneous give-and-take.”

Columnist Robert Novak says a Democratic source told him on Sunday that the 9th Circuit would postpone the recall election. “He predicted an all-Democrat three-judge federal appellate panel in San Francisco, including two of Bill Clinton’s liberal appointees, would postpone until next March the Oct. 7 recall election as demanded by the American Civil Liberties Union. What’s more, he said, the decision would be based on the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Bush vs. Gore.”

“How did he know all this? It was common knowledge in Democratic lawyers’ circles, he explained.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, nearly 400,000 absentee ballots have already been cast for the October 7 election. “That growing mountain of absentee ballots could be tossed out if the election is delayed, and waste $30 million in printing and postage costs, says Contra Costa County Clerk Stephen Weir, a spokesman for county elections officials. Or the absentees may have already helped determine the outcome of the Oct. 7 race by locking in votes that might have been changed later.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County elections chief said yesterday that putting off the recall could cause even more damage at the polling place.

“We will get some title going immediately here.” — Arnold responding to Howard Stern’s request for an official title in a Schwarzenegger Administration.

September 16, 2003 / 5:35 p.m. ET

After yesterday’s bombshell ruling by the 9th Circuit, we thought we needed a breather today from the recall. And with the press focused on John Edwards officially declaring his presidential candidacy, on Wes Clark likely doing the same thing tomorrow, and on a hurricane approaching the East Coast, we thought we’d get our wish.

Forget about it.

If there is one truth about the recall, it’s this: There’s always more news.

And here it is: According to the AP, the 9th Circuit might consider reexamining the decision its three-judge panel issue yesterday to postpone the recall election. “The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked California election officials and recall proponents to file briefs by Wednesday afternoon on whether they want all 11 judges on the appeals court to rehear the case.”

“‘This probably means that the Supreme Court will not intervene until the appeals court says what it is going to do,’ said Rory Little, a Hastings College of the Law professor who closely follows the appeals court.’”

Meanwhile, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley issued this statement in a press release. “I am immediately complying with the order from the 9th Circuit for briefs on whether or not this case should be reheard en banc.”

“I believe it is in everyone’s best interest that this case be heard swiftly and considered thoroughly, so the court can resolve these legal issues with the finality that the voters expect and deserve.”

“The brief will be filed Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 2 p.m. PT.”

With the possibility that the recall election might be postponed, what happens with the more than 2 million absentee ballots that have already been mailed out? The Contra Costa Times writes that ”[e]lections officials have mailed as many as 2.2 million absentee ballots to voters statewide, including more than 165,000 in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Voters began returning those ballots last week; more than 309,000 statewide have already been cast . . . If the court-imposed delay is upheld, it is unclear if elections officials still will count absentee ballots cast before the delay or if those voters will cast new ballots. It might depend on how long the delay lasts.”

The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, has this: “A Times review of more than 100 examples of his interviews and writings from the past 30 years reveals that Schwarzenegger’s habit of making off-color remarks about sex and women did not end in the 1970s, despite his defenders’ claims to the contrary.”

Speaking of Arnold and women: Appearing on Oprah yesterday, the New York Post notes, Maria Shriver said Arnold was nothing but respectful to women, despite allegations of his past womanizing. But Arnold did manage to embarrass his wife. “When Winfrey pressed the actor whether the drug use and group sex really happened, the Terminator said he didn’t remember.”

“‘But this was the time when I was saying things like “a pump [lifting weights] is better than [sex],” all those kinds of things,’ said Schwarzenegger, sending the audience into wild laughter as a mortified Shriver playfully slapped her husband across the mouth for his use of a slang term to describe sex.”

“‘My mother is watching this show!’ Shriver said.”

If you want to read what Arnold actually said — and what the Post basically airbrushed — you can click here or even in the Los Angeles Times story mentioned above. We’re a little too bashful about putting the actual quote in this space.

September 15, 2003 / 5:49 p.m. ET

The constant metaphor that has been used to describe the recall has been the roller-coaster ride; heck, we even used it in the post below. But while all of the wild twists and turns in this story have been fun and exhilarating, we think they’re finally going to make us sick.

The thinking here is that today’s decision gets overturned, because the 9th Circuit — fairly or unfairly — is seen as being out of step with the rest of the nation, especially with the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. Plus, having the recall election Oct. 7 is the quickest and easiest way to end this story; delaying until March just introduces a host of new unintended consequences.

But what does happen if the election is delayed until March? We caught up with Tim Hodson, a political expert at California State University (Sacramento), to give us his thoughts. First, he explained, delaying the vote would cost the cash-strapped state even more money. “There will be a significant cost impact to counties that have already been spending millions of dollars preparing for the ballot,” he said. In addition, it would prolong the political uncertainty that exists in California; Senate Republicans, he said, are already refusing to work with Democrats, because they’re hoping that a Republican will succeed Davis.

But in determining who actually benefits from a delay, Hodson said that we might as well shake a Magic-8 ball. The conventional wisdom is that Davis would benefit, because the March election would coincide with the Democratic presidential primary and because the new-and-improved Davis will have more time to prove himself to voters. Yet so much could happen between now and then — the economy could tank even further, or there could be a natural disaster that Davis responds to about as well as he did with the state’s energy crisis.

The same thing is true for Arnold, Hodson says. Arnold would have more time to sell voters that he’s a thoughtful candidate. Or that extra time could give him more of an opportunity to stumble.

The Contra Costa Times says that Schwarzenegger may have violated the terms of his visa. “Schwarzenegger came to the United States in 1968 on a B-1 visa, which allows visiting athletes to compete and train, but bars them from drawing a salary from an American company.” However, “Schwarzenegger said he reached a deal with a legendary figure in the bodybuilding industry ‘to pay me a weekly salary in exchange for my information and being able to use photographs of me in his magazine.’ That arrangement, said a half-dozen immigration attorneys across the nation, appears to have violated the terms of his visa.”

Meanwhile, is Bustamante ignoring the minority masses? He skipped out on the Mexican American Political Association’s convention over the weekend. The San Jose Mercury News says “Bustamante, who was traveling from out of state, was delayed on his trip to Los Angeles. Believing he was too late to speak at the convention, he skipped it and went straight to a $50,000 fundraiser in Santa Ana, said state Sen. Joe Dunn, who hosted the event . . . Since Bustamante did not show up, the 7,500-member Mexican American Political Association had to strike his name from the endorsement ballot.”

The New York Post mentions that there were some “circus-like elements” during Bill Clinton’s speech yesterday at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. “Among the 2,000 people in the congregation was actor Robert Blake, who is awaiting trial for the murder of his wife. Blake is free on $1.5 million bail and has been attending services at the church for about a month.”

“When Clinton quoted the passage from the gospel of John, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone,’ Blake’s face appeared on a TV screen set up in the church.”

“The debate on September 24 will be the Super Bowl of all debates” — Arnold explaining on “Oprah” today why he is participating in just one debate, the one on the 24th.

September 15, 2003 / 5:02 p.m. ET

In another wild turn in the already unpredictable race to recall California Gov. Gray Davis, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today issued a preliminary injunction to postpone the recall election until March, ruling that many Californians would be using the same flawed punch-card ballots that became infamous during the controversial Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election.

This decision by a three-judge panel overturns an earlier ruling by a lower district court not to postpone the recall election, which previously had been set for October 7.

“Forty-four percent of the electorate will be forced to use a voting system so flawed that the [California] Secretary of State has officially deemed it ‘unacceptable’ and banned its use in all future elections,” the 9th Circuit panel wrote. “The inherent defects in the system are such that approximately 40,000 voters who travel to the polls and cast their ballot will not have their vote counted at all.”

The appellate panel, however, did not ask for an immediate implementation of its order; instead, it issued a seven-day stay to allow this decision to be appealed to full 9th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indeed, Dave Gilliard, the chief strategist for the pro-recall group Rescue California, expects this decision to be overturned. “The 9th Circuit is the least respected and most-overturned appeals court in the nation,” he said. “These are renegade liberal judges who time and time again seek to make their own law, rather than follow law. We are confident they will be overturned.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action-hero actor who is running to replace Gov. Davis, issued a similar statement. “The Secretary of State has certified that this election should go forth on October 7. The California Supreme Court has also ruled that the election should go forward on October 7. I fully expect that the federal courts will come to the same conclusion,” he said.

“Today, I call upon the Secretary of State to immediately appeal this decision on behalf of the citizens who have exercised their constitutional right to recall Gray Davis, and who expect an election on October 7.”

But Californians Against the Costly Recall, the group Davis formed to fight the recall, praised the court’s decision. “Anything that leads to greater enfranchisement in California is something we support,” Peter Ragone, the group’s communications director, said in a statement. “The 9th Circuit panel has ruled and delayed the election due to voting rights concerns, but its word is not final. We will continue to campaign for the October 7 election until the issue is resolved in the courts.”

Experts say that postponing the recall election until March 2, 2004 would greatly benefit Davis’ chances of defeating the recall, since that March date is the date of the Democratic presidential primary, when Democratic voters are expected to flock to the polls.

September 12, 2003 / 5:21 p.m. ET

This weekend is shaping up to be a pivotal moment in the recall race. Gray Davis has his joint appearance with Bill Clinton on Sunday — just after a new Los Angeles Times poll shows likely voters ousting the governor by only a 50%-47% margin. While some discredit the Times poll, since it’s been the only one that has Davis coming close to beating the recall, there is still a growing sense that Davis has a better chance of winning than many think.

Once again, we’re tempted to draw a comparison to Rocky III. Can the greatest champ of all time (Bill Clinton subbing for Apollo Creed) give the necessary help and mentoring to the bloodied and beaten ex-champ (Gray Davis standing in for Rocky Balboa) - to give him the boost he needs to triumph over a seemingly unbeatable foe (an angry California public subbing for Mr. T)?

Again, we’ve got Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” - Bengal Tiger, that is - ringing in our ears. “It’s the eye of the tiger....”

But if Davis is going to win, he’s got to see these numbers improve: According to the poll, 27% of Latinos who back Bustamante plan to vote yes on the recall. Yet among all likely voters who plan to vote for Bustamante, only 8% plan to vote for the recall. Why does this difference exist? Because some Bustamante supporters - particularly Latinos - favor the recall to so he can be the state’s next governor.

On the GOP side this weekend, the California Republican Party is holding its convention, where both Arnold and Tom McClintock will speak. And the pressure seems to be increasing for McClintock to get out of the race, the Sacramento Bee reports. Check out this quote: “‘Almost all of us are closer to McClintock in ideology than Schwarzenegger, but we lost every election last time, and we ought to learn something from that,’ said James DeMartini, central committee chairman for Stanislaus County and a member of the party’s executive board.”

The San Jose Mercury News runs a similar article.

But McClintock has some good news to present to the party: The new L.A. Times poll has him at 18% in the replacement contest, up from 12% in August. The poll has Bustamante leading at 30%, followed by Arnold at 25%, and then McClintock.

Moreover, it turns out, McClintock is putting some pressure on Arnold. NBC’s George Lewis reports that when Arnold phoned in to a conservative talk-radio show this morning, it turned out that McClintock was in the studio, and the state senator challenged Arnold to a debate. Arnold declined.

California GOP strategist Dan Schnur told CNN’s Inside Politics this afternoon that at the GOP convention, McClintock is going to have to convince party members that he can win, while Arnold needs to convince them that he shares their principles. “Which ever one does the better job of this comes out of the convention in a much better position,” he said.

We agree with Schnur, although Arnold’s challenge, we think, will be easier than McClintock’s.

“There’s so much anger and antipathy towards each side that if this were the Wild West, there would be duels in the hallway.” — he Adam Bernay of the California Republican Liberty Caucus commenting on the GOP divide between Arnold and McClintock supporters.

September 11, 2003 / 6:04 p.m. ET

Well, apparently Arnold isn’t getting enough attention from the media. Just take a look at the transcript from his interview last night with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

“O’REILLY: The L.A. Times has been very hard on you. They brought up your father again and his past, in World War II. They brought up the ‘Oui’ magazine interview 25 years ago. Are you surprised that the L.A. Times and some other media, New York Times here to a lesser extent, have gone after you personally?

“SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, not really, because I always knew that Davis knows how to run a negative campaign. All of the stories are fed by the campaign headquarters, I guarantee you that. And they just know how to run a negative campaign....

“O’REILLY: All right. If it’s true, though, that the L.A. Times is taking their cues from the Davis campaign, why would a newspaper that’s supposed to be objective do that?

“SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, have you ever seen how many times they’ve put Davis on the cover and Bustamante on the cover, and I’m on page 12 or page 20 or something like that?

“O’REILLY: Yes, I know what they’re doing.

“SCHWARZENEGGER: It’s very clear what they’re doing. I mean, you know, and even the editor admitted it, that he’s doing that. So, I mean, I’m not surprised at that. That’s just the way it is, and I just have to reach out to the people, and that’s why I’m traveling up and down the state. That’s why I’m here in San Jose. That’s why I will be in a few days from now in San Diego.”

The Davis campaign quickly released a press release showing that Arnold has appeared on the cover of the L.A. Times at least 17 times since he declared his candidacy. In addition, Reuters says that a “search of the Lexis-Nexis database showed that Davis has been mentioned on the paper’s front page 64 times since Schwarzenegger joined the race on Aug. 6, while Schwarzenegger appears 61 times over the same period. Bustamante is mentioned 48 times.”

But if Arnold is upset that he’s not getting enough love from the press, he can feel good about his appearance — with his wife — on ion, Oprah this coming Monday.

In his interview with O’Reilly, Arnold also answered more questions on the issues facing California. On taxation: “I won’t raise taxes, because like I said, like I said, I do not want to punish the people for the politicians’ mistakes. And it’s all the answers they have, the Democrats. It’s always the same thing. It’s like as soon as they make a mistake, they want to go and raise taxes and punish the people.”

On his plans for the budget: “So the bottom line is, is to take the waste out of there. There’s a lot of waste in there.... A lot of corruption. A lot of corruption, a lot of waste today, especially with the workers’ compensation and all those things. We can save money there. We can save money ...”

On allowing illegal immigrants to have drivers’ licenses: “I definitely would rescind the driver’s license, because I think it is unfair to the rest of the people of California. They have now driver’s licensing required of people from all over the world that can come and get driver’s licenses without any background check. I think it is ridiculous. It’s unsafe for the state. It creates big security problems here. The law enforcement community is against that. The federal government is against that. The attorney general of California, Bill Lockyer, is against that, and I am definitely against it. I think, like I said, it will create serious security problems.”

On whether he would be opposed to militarizing the border between California and Mexico: “Well, I’m not opposed to that, but I’d really have to check it out and really become much more an expert on how to protect the borders in order to make the — to stop that from happening. But also, I think, there’s a lot of money that we can get from the federal government to help us with the costs of the undocumented [immigrants].”

In case you missed it earlier: The Los Angeles Times notes that California Republicans are caught in a bind “over whether they must compromise their conservative principles to elect a Republican governor.” Back the more electable Arnold or stay true to their conservative beliefs and support Tom McClintock?

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle says GOP officials are worried that Arnold versus McClintock could turn into a “bloodbath” at this weekend’s state GOP convention. “Schwarzenegger is scheduled to speak to the convention at lunch Saturday, while McClintock gets his turn a few hours later at dinner. But McClintock isn’t likely to get his hoped-for debate, which GOP Chairman Duf Sundheim warned would be ‘a bloodbath in public.’” Many Republicans want McClintock to bow out of the race to help the GOP’s chances in the recall election, the paper adds, but McClintock says he isn’t willing to step aside.

The Sacramento Bee writes that Gray Davis apologized yesterday for making fun of the way Arnold pronounces “California.”

“‘It was a poor joke, I shouldn’t have done it,’ he said. ‘If people want to hear me apologize, I apologize for it. ... This was not a public remark. But if people find it offensive, then I want them to know that I am apologizing because my whole governorship has been reaching out, including people, offering them opportunity, because I think that is the path to a stronger California. ...’”

According to the San Jose Mercury News, on Sunday, former President Bill Clinton “will make a long-awaited campaign appearance with the embattled Davis at the First AME Church in South-Central Los Angeles.”

After saying he wouldn’t take money from “anyone” to run for governor, to date, Arnold has collected more than $4 million. The San Jose Mercury News takes a look at who has been contributing to the Terminator’s campaign chest.

“Now, listen, I don’t care about what your father did in World War II and I don’t care about your sex stuff, all right. It doesn’t matter to me. You weren’t — you were a single guy. You weren’t in any public office.”

“But you are — you said you were big on the environment and all of that, and you drive a Hummer. How does that square?” — one of Bill O’Reilly’s questions to Arnold last night.

September 10, 2003 / 5:32 p.m. ET

In a story that’s been dominated by Arnold, a transformed Gray Davis, Cruz and the possibility of a Latino governor, and a menagerie of other colorful candidates (Gary Coleman, Gallagher, Arianna, Mary Carey), it’s a bit ironic that the fate of the second part of the ballot might hinge on the most unassuming candidate of all: Tom McClintock.

Without Peter Ueberroth in the race, the statewide Field Poll has Cruz at 32%, Arnold at 27%, McClintock at 14%, Arianna at 3%, the Green Party’s Peter Camejo at 2%, and “Undecided” at 16%. Of course, those undecideds could end up playing a significant role. But as it stands right now, if Davis is recalled, Cruz will be the one replacing him - unless Arnold can tap into McClintock’s 14%. And that’s why Republicans and Arnold’s camp are putting pressure on McClintock, the San Francisco Chronicle writes.

“‘Tom has done what’s in the best interests of the Republican Party in the past, and we hope he will do what’s in the best interests of the party again,’ said Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh.”

The paper also has this quote: “‘Ueberroth dropping out doesn’t transform the race. The transformative dropout would be McClintock,’ said Terry Christensen, a San Jose State University political science professor. ‘This means the pressure mounts on McClintock.’”

McClintock adamantly maintains he’s staying in the race. And even though Ueberroth and Bill Simon said the same thing, we believe McClintock. His numbers keep improving. He is the one true conservative remaining in the race. And in this special election, the people who truly despise Davis - conservatives - will be the ones who will be rushing to the polls. In short, unlike Simon and Ueberroth, McClintock has a good reason to think he can win.

Yesterday, we extolled the California Republican Party for the discipline and unity it has displayed so far. But getting to McClintock to bow out of the race, we think, will be its biggest (and most important) test.

We were wondering where Warren Buffett has been, but he finally popped up in the Los Angeles Times, downplaying his role in the Arnold campaign. “‘He’s serious about taking in everybody’s views, and mine is just one of 18,’ Buffett, speaking in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said about Schwarzenegger, a Republican. ‘He’s kind of a policy wonk.’”

Really? Somehow, when we watched the re-runs of “Predator,” we never took him for a Daniel Patrick Moynihan or an Ira Magaziner. Shows what we know.

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times reports that Arnold is fundraising in Contra Costa County tonight, where he’s expected to raise $400,000 and also “grab endorsements, glad-hand local politicos, and draw local media attention while steering clear of detailed positions.”

Arnold is drawing more help from women. First, it was wife Maria, and now it’s her mother, Eunice Shriver, sister of former President John F. Kennedy. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Eunice Shriver campaigned this morning in San Jose, where she touted Arnold’s commitment to education. “Shriver said this was the first time she had ever supported a Republican, but that her son-in-law had long been active in children’s issues. ‘He’s done an enormous amount of work for handicapped children,’ Shriver said.”

Well, it seems it’s official: Cruz Bustamante has dropped the “no on recall” slogan from his campaign, the AP writes. “From now on, Bustamante will emphasize his campaign for governor, not opposition to the recall, consultant Richie Ross told The Associated Press in what he called a conscious change of strategy.”

The change in strategy, the AP suggests, is due to Bustamante’s increasing negative ratings. “‘We have been put in a position of constantly defending negative charges,’ Ross said. ‘That has resulted in this increasing unfavorable number and has caused us to shift more of our emphasis to presenting a positive case to the voters as to why Cruz Bustamante would be an excellent governor.’”

When we called Cruz’s campaign office today, however, we were surprised to learn that campaign still answers its phone, “No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante.” Maybe the receptionists haven’t gotten the message yet.

Also, the Los Angeles Times notes that in “his quest for the governor’s office, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is increasingly veering left with appeals to immigrants and working-class voters, shucking off the label of moderate Democrat that he has worn for years.”

“By pairing his personal biography with a campaign platform aimed at blue-collar workers, Bustamante has positioned himself as a staunch liberal - and is depicting himself as the antithesis of Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

But there’s a possible downside to this: “‘The danger is he will not expand beyond his ethnic base,’ said Tony Quinn, co-editor of the nonpartisan California Target Book, which analyzes state elections.”

Last night, McClintock sent an email to supporters, urging them to press Arnold to meet McClintock in a one-on-one debate at this weekend’s California GOP convention. “We need you to call the talk radio shows and write to your local newspaper, to tell them about ... Tom’s challenge and his campaign.”

“Please CALL, CALL, and CALL. Demand Arnold debate Tom.” Does this sound like a guy who’s about to bow out of the race?

“He never wanted Arnold to be a bodybuilder. He wanted him to be a curler.” — Karl Gerstl, Arnold’s childhood friend, describing what Arnold’s father wanted his son to become.

September 9, 2003 / 5:22 p.m. ET

You’ve got to hand it to the California Republican Party: Despite some natural kicking and screaming, it has demonstrated a tremendous amount of discipline and unity. First, Darrell Issa - who nearly financed the entire recall drive in his bid to become governor - dropped out the recall race before it actually began. Bill Simon, last year’s GOP nominee for governor, was the next to leave. And with Arnold trailing Cruz Bustamante, 30%-25%, in the latest statewide Field Poll, Republican Peter Ueberroth announced he’s getting out of the race.

The GOP field is now down to two candidates: Arnold and Tom McClintock. And while Arnold seems to be the chief beneficiary of Ueberroth’s departure, people keep whispering to us not to underestimate McClintock and his pull with conservative Republicans.

But while the amount of unity and discipline among Republicans is making them seem like an order of Franciscan monks, the Democrats are starting to act like characters from “Lord of the Flies.” Okay, we know that’s a bit of a stretch, but the apparent infighting between Davis and Cruz is getting out of hand.

On Monday, all California papers ran stories about how Cruz is beginning to distance himself from opposing the recall. The Los Angeles Times: “During a jubilant rally before some 2,000 supporters at the Fresno Convention Center, Bustamante spent nearly 40 minutes outlining why he should be elected to succeed Davis.... In previous speeches, Bustamante had criticized the recall and urged supporters to vote against it. On Sunday, he made no such argument. Bustamante said after his speech that he had repeated his ‘no on the recall’ line once, at the end of the speech, but cheers drowned out the words.”

With this latest example of Davis and Cruz not being on the same page, we decided to chat with Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who was one of the first Democrats to support having a major Democrat on the second part of the ballot, to give Democrats the best chance to defeat the recall; Sherman is even distributing combs that say, “No on recall, Yes on Bustamante.”

Sherman says that Democrats will get behind the no-yes message at its state convention on September 13, although he admits that it might not be that smooth of a process. But Sherman admits his goal of having Davis and Cruz appear on the stage together, with both men raising their arms in unity to defeat the recall, isn’t occurring. “We’re not there yet.”

However, he says, we’re likely to see Sen. Barbara Boxer appear on the stage with Cruz and, two hours later, appear on the stage with Davis. And then he takes this jab at Arnold. “When are we going to get Arnold Schwarzenegger on the stage with anybody?”

In case you missed it earlier: The Los Angeles Times notes that at a Sacramento Wal-Mart yesterday, Maria Shriver “encountered about 100 union members loudly decrying the recall and the discount chain’s employment policies” during her voter-registration drive there.

According to the Contra Costa Times, “Shriver defended her husband and said the location for the voter registration drive was chosen because they wanted a shopping center with lots of people around.”

Despite her rough day yesterday, the San Jose Mercury News writes that “Shriver, 47, brings a lot to the campaign, beginning with her natural appeal to fellow women. As a working mother of four children under the age of 15, she may win votes from women who are turned off by her swashbuckling husband....” The paper goes on to say that the campaign “hopes Shriver will do several things: defuse criticism over her husband’s past womanizing, help lay out a coherent political message aimed at swing voters, use her own journalistic prowess to tame an increasingly restless media pack and harness her own star power.”

But according to the New York Times , Shriver needs to start rolling up her sleeves. The paper explains that Cruz’s lead over Arnold in the polls can be attributed to one thing: women. In the latest Field Poll, Schwarzenegger is trailing Bustamante by 13 percent among women.

In his speech announcing his withdrawal from the race, Ueberroth said that he would meet with the remaining campaigns - Democratic and Republican - and ask them, “How are you going to keep more jobs in the state? How are you going to create more jobs?” Once he gets those answers, he will endorse a candidate.

Also, Ueberroth said he received no pressure from other Republicans to exit the race, except one early phone call from Arnold supporter Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.

“California has proved that it is the entertainment capital of the world. That is the only positive I can see in this whole thing.” - Rep. Sherman describing to us the recall and all the attention it has received.September 8, 2003 / 5:30 p.m. ET

We don’t have the latest Field Poll results in our hands, but some of the numbers are already floating around. The poll shows that 55% of voters supporting the recall, 40% opposing it, and 5% undecided. Those numbers aren’t close to the 50%-45% Los Angeles Times poll numbers of late August that made Gray Davis’ camp giddy.

But Davis’ people see a bright side to the latest figures. According to his pollsters, ”[I]t is most appropriate to compare the most recent Field Poll results on the recall with the last Field Poll, which showed the recall winning by a 22-point margin (58% to 37%, with 5% undecided). Thus, in comparing the two Field Polls, we see a net gain of 6 points for opponents of the recall.” (The emphasis is theirs).

In addition, NBC Political Director Elizabeth Wilner reports, per campaign sources, that for the recall election, the poll shows Bustamante at 30%, Arnold at 25%, and McClintock at 13% — with no other candidate receiving more than 5%. If the numbers are correct, Wilner suggests, they “could set the Republican Establishment off on an even greater frenzy to get McClintock out” of the race. We agree. Stay tuned.

In this wild recall story - with porn stars, comedians, and actors running for governor; with egg attacks; and with an appearance (albeit a brief one) by Rob Lowe - it probably shouldn’t surprise us that the most vicious exchange so far between Davis and Arnold has been over the pronunciation of “California.” The Sacramento Bee writes, “Gray Davis on Sunday said he was ‘just joking around with someone in the crowd’ when he remarked a day earlier that ‘you shouldn’t be governor unless you can pronounce the name of the state.’”

“Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign officials continued to call on Davis to apologize for his remark, which they called an ‘anti-immigrant slur.’”

“But Davis did not apologize, instead downplaying a comment that referred to the Austrian accent of the actor who is running to replace him in the recall. ‘We were just kidding around in a private discussion,’ he told reporters after participating in a Mexican Independence Day parade in East Los Angeles.”

“Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said Davis’ joke wasn’t amusing. ‘It’s not funny,’ he said. ‘It’s disgusting, and if it had been uttered about a Latino, there would be a media uproar. He owes an apology to the 9 million Californians that live here but were born outside of the United States.’”

Sharon Davis made an appearance on MSNBC this afternoon, and she defended her husband’s comment about Arnold’s pronunciation skills. “That was an off-the-cuff remark,” she said, adding that Arnold is a “big-enough man” to take that kind of jab.

Despite all the fuss, however, Arnold’s campaign thinks his accent is great for his image. The Contra Costa Times reports ”[t]he Terminator’s handlers are spinning with joy. They see his accent as part of a wonderful soundtrack. ‘It signifies the great immigrant success story of coming to the country with just a couple dollars in your pocket,’ said campaign spokesman Sean Walsh, ‘of not being able to speak the language, mastering the language, then conquering all your financial and personal dreams. When you hear that voice, it’s instantly recognizable. People pay a lot of money to try and get a branding of their image like that.’”

At 8 p.m. ET tonight in Orange, CA, Arnold holds a town hall meeting. What kind of audience will be there? Arnold spokesman Rob Stutzman tells us the crowd “will be made up of people invited by business, student and political organizations. No prescreened participants or questions — very free-flowing.”

Still, we assume the business/student/politico crowd won’t contain any leftists, Gray Davis supporters (read: Sharon Davis), or egg-throwers. As Stutzman replies, “It won’t be hostile, but not necessarily supporters either.”

Wife Maria Shriver is starting to get more involved with the Arnold campaign. At 7 p.m. ET, she will be registering voters at Wal-Mart, and a Schwarzenegger source tells us she’s been at a couple of fundraising events today.

And in case you missed it earlier: The Contra Costa Times reports that Shriver defended her husband over the weekend. “Shriver emerged Friday as her husband’s defender, implicitly shielding him from charges that he disrespects women. ‘I know that I would not be where I am today in my career, as a woman, without his support,’ she told supporters at a new volunteer center in Santa Monica, while protesters outside denounced Schwarzenegger for crude remarks he has made.”

MSNBC’s David Shuster reports that Tom McClintock unequivocally states he will stay in the recall race “until the finish line” and “will not get out under any circumstances.” According to Shuster, “McClintock says he has been keeping his word for 20 years and that when he says he is staying in the recall race through Election Day, that means he will be staying in the race until the end - no matter what the polls indicate and no matter who may ask him to get out.”

Peter Ueberroth began running his first TV ad today. The ad highlights his stewardship of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, mentioning that he took those Olympic games from a deficit to a $200 million surplus. “Leadership in crisis is what Peter Ueberroth does best,” the ad states.

“I love Mexico. I’ve done four movies down there.” — Arnold, disputing suggestions by Democrats that he’s anti-immigrant.

September 5, 2003 / 5:30 p.m. ET

MSNBC’s John Elliot is reporting that Arnold just picked up the endorsement of the California Chamber of Commerce, which has never before endorsed a candidate for governor in its 112-year history. Since this column began, we’ve been trying (with great difficultly) to track Arnold’s statements on the issues, to understand what he believes in and what kind of governor he would be. But this endorsement really begins to make things clear for us: Arnold is all about business.

In fact, he’s a businessman himself. He also believes in cutting taxes. As the Los Angeles Times points out, he wants to lower employers’ worker-compensation costs. As the Sacramento Bee’s Daniel Weintraub notes, he opposes Senate Bill 2, which would require companies with 20 or more employees to provide health insurance for their workers. And he’s taking campaign contributions from corporations - but not from unions. “I don’t want to accept any money from people I potentially would be negotiating with,” he says.

Of course, corporations never have any type of business before the government. Right?

The Los Angeles Times writes about the new Gray Davis. “In encounters like Wednesday’s candidate debate in Walnut Creek and a town hall session Thursday in San Diego, the notoriously stiff governor has demonstrated his command of issues and displayed flashes of humor, empathy and contrition.”

“It’s difficult to gauge how voters are responding to the governor’s more relaxed public demeanor. So far, polls have not shown any significant change in attitudes toward Davis.”

But we’re eager to see the next batch of polls on Davis. Will the button-downed, relaxed, and contrite Gray Davis start to creep up in the polls? (And when we say polls, we mean polls besides that bizarre August Los Angeles Times poll, which showed Davis losing the recall by just a 50%-45% margin. Other polls show him losing by a much wider margin.)

Cruz seems to be attracting more criticism from his own party. According to the San Jose Mercury News, “California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said he believes it was legal for Bustamante to accept more than $2 million from casino-owning Indian tribes into a campaign committee set up for his 2002 re-election, but ‘in such a high-profile case, you’d think he would not be so clever about it.’”

Meanwhile, Arnold’s campaign is doing a little oppo research on Cruz, the Mercury News writes. “With polls showing Bustamante and the action star in a tight race in the battle to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he is recalled, Schwarzenegger consultant Mark Bogetich has compiled packets filled with information about the lieutenant governor’s legislative voting record, donations from Indian tribes, and links to a left-wing Latino group.”

In case you missed it earlier: The Los Angeles Times does a post-mortem on Wednesday’s recall debate. “The early consensus appeared to be that state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) gained the most from the debate and that fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger - who didn’t participate - was the biggest loser. But the real effect, analysts said, may not be apparent for days....”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal profiles Peter Ueberroth, reporting that he plans to spend $10 million of his own money to finance his campaign. “‘He’s been the wild card from the start, and he’s still the wild card,’ says John Hein, political strategist for the powerful California Teachers Association. ‘If he spends money, and spends it right, he could take off.’”’

“I have to say it’s the thing I dislike the most. All my life I tried to make money so I didn’t have to ask anybody for anything. All of a sudden, there you are, ‘Can you help me with this?’” - Arnold on fundraising.

September 4, 2003 / 5:09 p.m. ET

Who looked good in last night’s debate? Who looked bad? And did a certain person’s absence hurt him or help him? Rather than have us blabber about it, we thought we’d give you other people’s impressions and opinions.

Davis “vigorously condemned the effort to drive him from office, alternately sounding notes of frustration and contrition. If given the chance, Davis said, he would do a better job of reaching out to Californians in the last three years of his term by holding town hall meetings across the state.” — Los Angeles Times

“I’d like to actually see Gray connecting rather than hearing him talk about it all night.” — the Sacramento Bee’s Daniel Weintraub

Davis struck “a low-key and humble approach.” — Washington Post

“Mr. Davis adopted a contrite tone in his opening remarks and in responding to five citizens chosen by the debate’s organizers to question him. He said he was aware of the public anger at him, and vowed to change if he is permitted to complete the four-year term to which he was elected last November.” — New York Times

“Gov. Gray Davis on Wednesday sought to lift his standing with voters by projecting a new, more personable image but missed an opportunity to make a passionate case to California voters on why they should not recall him from office.” —San Jose Mercury News

“The more he ducks questions from the political media and continues to deliver platitudinous speeches, the more doubts about his capabilities arise. ... Schwarzenegger is spinning his wheels, and his absence from Wednesday’s debate indicates that if he wants to regain traction, he’s going to have to do more than grin, utter lines from his movies and flex his muscles.” — Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters

“Had he been there, he might have outshone these folks, but then again he might have been dragged down to their level.” — Weintraub

He “was relatively cautious in taking advantage” of Arnold’s absence. — Washington Post

“Bustamante took his own shot at the governor when he was asked to name a policy difference he had with Davis. He said Davis had been too weak during the state’s energy crisis.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“While everyone has been nagging Gray to admit the mistakes he claims to now realize he made, Cruz jumped in without even being asked and acknowledged that he was wrong to have voted for the 1996 bill that deregulated electricity in California, a bill of which he was a co-author. Perhaps he thinks that vote might yet come back to haunt him?” — Weintraub

“The first forum of the recall did not offer up a clear winner or loser, analysts say, but gave the only big-name Democrat running to replace Gov. Gray Davis critical exposure and greater legitimacy. The net result may be to give Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante much-needed momentum in a field crowded with candidates seeking support from discontented Democrats.” — Contra Costa Times

“He distinguished himself as a conservative’s conservative, on everything from taxes to abortion, the death penalty, immigration and the environment. I still don’t think he’s in the mainstream of the electorate, but he has the look of a guy who is willing to wait for the rest of us to figure out what he’s known all along.” — Weintraub

“On many of the issues Wednesday night, McClintock stood alone. He opposed abortion, vowed never to raise taxes and called for fewer restrictions on gun ownership, since ‘people have a fundamental right to defend themselves from violent predators.’ His strong conservative stances likely won him some votes, possibly at the expense of more moderate Republicans such as Schwarzenegger and Ueberroth.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“Ueberroth, a registered Republican running as an independent, tried to turn every question into a debate on jobs. Without jobs, the state will never get out of its economic doldrums, he said.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“Arianna Huffington has a good thing going with her jihad against the prison industrial complex and the correctional officers union. She said she wants teachers to be paid more than prison guards and later said one theme of her campaign is “books, not bars.’” — Weintraub

“Her responses were generally forceful and dripping with conviction (Politicians ‘are spineless on the death penalty’) and her playful sparring with Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was good for a few laughs.” — Contra Costa Times

“This guy owes me bacon now. You just can’t have eggs without bacon”

September 3, 2003 / 5:51 p.m. ET

With tonight’s debate just a couple of hours away, we thought we’d give you the top six things we will be keeping our eyes on.

1) Just how hard will the recall candidates (and maybe even Gray Davis) hit Arnold for missing the debate? Will Arnold regret not attending? Or will the food fight get so ugly that he’ll look smart for avoiding it?

2) How will Tom McClintock look? Will he impress conservatives enough that many of them who want him to drop out — to help a Republican win the recall election — might begin to see him as their guy? Ditto for Peter Ueberroth with centrist Republicans.

3) Similarly, will Cruz impress Democrats and others enough that they will vote for him, for a reason other than that he’s Democrat?

4) How will the independents look? Will Arianna and Peter Camejo attract voters who have become disillusioned with the two major parties, and thus possibly have a Nader-like effect on the recall vote?

5) Will Davis continue to be the engaging, buttoned-down, and contrite governor he’s been in the last few weeks?

6) And will everyone actually pay attention to the participating candidates, or will the one guy who’s not there — Arnold — still get all the buzz tomorrow?

To watch tonight’s debate yourself, you can click right here.

One thing that will surely get buzz in tomorrow’s papers is that as Arnold walked out to give his speech this afternoon in Long Beach, someone pelted him with an egg. Besides getting egg treatment — just another strange event in this strange recall story — Arnold repeated his standard line (borrowed from the film “Network”): “We are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore.” And he also said this: “This is not a right-wing takeover. This is a people’s takeover.”

In his sit-down interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw last night, Davis once again looked relaxed and confident. He told Brokaw that Bill Clinton would be coming out to California to help him defeat the recall. And when asked who is the greatest threat to him — Arnold or Cruz — Davis replied, “The greatest threat is that the recall will be successful.”

In case you missed it: The San Francisco Chronicle previews the two anti-recall ads featuring Sen. Dianne Feinstein, which the paper notes will begin running in the Los Angeles, Bay Area and Monterey markets at a buy of about $1 million. In the ads, “Feinstein, a Democratic senator, does not mention the beleaguered Davis by name. She urges voters to oppose the recall, saying it is creating uncertainty and instability that harms the state.”

Also, the Chronicle reports that Rescue California — the Darrell Issa-backed organization that supports “yes” on the recall — is having a hard time meeting its fund-raising projections. With recall supporters’ contributions going to individual recall candidates, “the absence of a competitive campaign treasury thus far raises the possibility the pro-recall forces will fail to make their case in a way that competes with the anti-recall campaign being waged by the governor.”

In case you missed it: The Chronicle notes that one Indian tribe “with gaming interests” intends to give Bustamante $2 million to fund his recall election campaign. “Election law experts question whether the donations skirt voter-approved campaign contribution limits, while critics say the money will make Bustamante beholden to gaming tribes if he is elected governor.”

The New York Times profiles Tom McClintock, noting that despite the mounting pressure from Republicans wanting him to leave the race, he still says he has no intention of bowing out.

“A debate without Arnold Schwarzenegger is like going to Pac Bell Park and Barry Bonds isn’t playing.” — the Hoover Institution’s Bill Whalen, a onetime Schwarzenegger adviser.

September 2, 2003 / 5:22 p.m. ET

For the last few weeks, the consensus opinion among Democrats has been that “No on recall, Yes on Bustamante” is a win-win message, because it encourages voters to oppose the recall but also support a strong Democratic candidate just in case Gov. Gray Davis is recalled. Heck, even Davis’ wife, Sharon, has endorsed this strategy.

We’ve previously mentioned the strategy could backfire, however, because it divides finite fund-raising dollars between Davis and Bustamante, and because it’s confusing and even intellectually dishonest. But the Los Angeles Times suggests another problem with the strategy: It might not work if the two candidates aren’t on the same side.

According to the paper, on Sunday, Bustamante took shots at Davis over the issue of Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot measure denying social services to illegal immigrants. On CBS’ Face the Nation, he said, “I took on Pete Wilson. I took him on because he was trying to deny food stamps to legal children.” He then added: “I took on Gray Davis on the issue of 187 when I didn’t think he was working fast enough.”

And he said virtually the same thing on CNN: “I took on Pete Wilson, and I took on Gray Davis.”

Yet the Times has Bustamante strategist Richie Ross saying Cruz’s statements weren’t a “wink” to supporters who might want to vote yes on the recall so he can become governor. “We answer our phone, ‘No on the Recall, Yes on Bustamante.’ I don’t know what more you can do. And people still say: ‘Yeah, but do you really mean it?’”But Ross also said this: “We’re still waiting for Gov. Davis to say he’s going to vote for Cruz Bustamante, and he hasn’t said that yet.”

Davis consultant Roger Salazar also tries to dismiss the ostensible friction between Davis and Bustamante. He tells us that the press loves to focus on it, but that most voters really don’t care about it. Instead, he says, the voters will turn out to the message that the Republicans are trying to steal last year’s election from the Democrats.

As we’ve said in the past, if a Democrat or Republican ends up sitting in the governor’s office after Oct. 7 will, in large part, hinge on the amount of discipline and unity the two parties show. This kind of conflict between Davis and Bustamante — whether it’s real, imagined, or something only the press cares about — doesn’t seem to help the Democrats.

Speaking of “No on recall, Yes on Bustamante,” the one prominent Democrat who objects to this position — Sen. Dianne Feinstein — appears on Davis’ new TV ad unveiled today opposing the recall.

With appearances today on talk radio, Arnold is again keeping a low profile. And in case you missed it, the Los Angeles Timessays that he will also be keeping a low profile on the debate circuit.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press examines why Hollywood is keeping mum on Arnold’s candidacy and the recall. “Celebrities, even the ones who normally cannot shut up when it comes to politics, have so far kept amazingly quiet about the highest-profile movie star to enter a California governor’s race since Ronald Reagan.”

“There are always six degrees of separation between any two big stars out here. It’s very incestuous out here.” August 28, 2003 / 5:30 p.m. ET

It couldn’t be a better day. It’s Thursday, so the long weekend is just around the corner. Better yet (at least for one of us), there are two college football games tonight and a slate of other games throughout this Labor Day weekend. And — most importantly — when we woke up this morning, the newspapers were full of stories about Arnold’s stands on social issues, after he appeared on talk-radio shows yesterday. So with these news reports, we bring you our newest installment of “Conan the Barbarian or Arnold the Libertarian?”

On gun control: “I support the Second Amendment that people have the right to have arms.” But he also said that he supported the Brady bill, which required a five-day waiting period for buying handguns, and that he wanted to close loopholes about purchases at gun shows. He added, “Sometimes under certain circumstances, we should have trigger locks on our guns.” — New York Times

On Proposition 54, the initiative that would bar the state from collecting racial data: He did not state a position. — New York Times

On abortion: Says he’s “pro-choice” but against partial-birth abortions. — Washington Post

On gay rights: “I do support domestic partnerships.” But: “Marriage should be between a man and woman.” — Washington Post

On school prayer: “I think it should be up to the schools.” — Washington Post

On school vouchers: Doesn’t support them. “I think it’s very important we work with the current system.” — Washington Post

On whether he supports drilling for oil off the California coast: “Absolutely not.” — Washington Post

On whether he supports an assault-weapons ban: “Yes, I do support that.” — Washington Post

On spending: “I’m pretty conservative,” he said on [Sean] Hannity’s show Wednesday. ‘You know, I don’t believe in spending. The first thing I’m going to do is go into Sacramento and put a spending cap on the politicians, because they can’t help themselves, because it’s ridiculous to spend money that you don’t have.” — Los Angeles Times

On whether he would support legislation providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants: “I vote no on that.” — San Francisco Chronicle

On illegal immigrants in general: “These are people that are working here, many of them are working here for many, many, many years, and doing a great job. And so we have to figure out how we handle that.” — San Francisco Chronicle

On drug legalization: Says it’s “a bad idea,” but added, “I would legalize medical [marijuana].” —San Francisco Chronicle

In case you missed it, L.A. Times columnist George Skelton praises Gray Davis’ town-hall performance in San Francisco. “He actually looked tolerable. No, better than that: pleasant. Even interesting. And, once or twice, entertaining.”

The Los Angeles Times also writes about Sharon Davis. “Always an energetic campaigner for her sometimes lackluster mate, Sharon Davis has become even more indispensable in the campaign to help Gov. Gray Davis fight off the first statewide recall in California history.”

Will Davis vote “no” on the recall and “yes” on Bustamante? According to the Contra Costa Times, we’ll know about 10 days before the October 7 recall election.

The AP writes up the plan Cruz announced today to stop oil companies from price-gouging Californians. “Californians are being gouged, and under current law we are powerless to do anything about it,” said Bustamante, standing in front of a Sacramento gas station. He announced he would press the Legislature to amend the state constitution to bring the oil companies under state regulatory control.”

“Six oil companies control 90 percent of the California market. In the last two weeks, they caused the largest jump in gasoline prices ever recorded,” he said.

In case you missed it: The L.A. Times has a piece on Peter Ueberroth. “In afternoon appearances on CNN’s ‘Inside Politics’ and Fox News’ ‘Your World With Neil Cavuto,’ Ueberroth restated his aversion to taxes as a solution to the state’s budget woes and denied that he is being pressured by fellow Republicans to drop out of the Oct. 7 recall election and unite behind Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

The San Francisco Chronicle has a great list of the best recall one-liners. As loyal NBC employees, this is our favorite one: “An NBC News poll has found that if the election were held today, 31 percent of California voters would vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger and 26 percent were not sure. Today Gray Davis announced he is changing his name to ‘Not Sure.’” — Jay Leno

August 22, 2003 / 12:45 p.m. ET

California’s Democratic congressional delegation is now embracing the message “No on recall, Yes on Cruz Bustamante.” It’s the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too strategy. The Los Angeles Times even notes that Gray Davis is warming to this idea. “I know some of my aides were of a different view initially. But I believe the excitement of [Bustamante’s] candidacy will actually attract more people to polls who will vote ‘no.’ ”

Davis might be right. And it’s probably the Democrats’ best bet to hold on to the governor’s office. But this dual (and contradictory) message also has its problems. For starters, it likely diverts fundraising dollars from either Davis or Cruz, since Democratic donors will find it expensive to financially back both campaigns (in addition to all of the Democratic presidential candidates begging for money).

Second, the message is confusing. Just how do you instruct Democrats to vote no and then yes on Bustamante? Rep. Brad Sherman (D) has an idea: He’s ordered 8,000 combs that say “No on recall, yes on Bustamante.” The Los Angeles Times reports.

And finally, it’s an intellectually dishonest message to say, “We adamantly oppose the recall, but just in case we lose, we’d like to have a backup plan.” But to be fair, when was the last time we held it against politicians for being intellectually dishonest? (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, however, is being consistent: “I am not going to vote on the second part of the ballot,” she told the Washington Post.)

The Republicans, meanwhile, have their own consistency problems. We have learned that one of Arnold’s economic advisers - the Republican investor F. Warren Hellman - is also a key member of the anti-recall group Stand for California Coalition, and he has previously said that recalling Davis would wreck the California economy. “This recall is bad for business,” he said on July 28 conference call with reporters and other members of the Stand for California Coalition. “It will drive investors away.” He also signed a June 29 letter to President Bush, asking him to urge the California Republicans “to halt their recall effort against Gray Davis.”

Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the Stand for California Coalition tells us, “Warren Hellman is still against the recall and he’s still a member of our [coalition]. Our partners are all united against the recall, but they may have divergent points of view about the replacement-candidate question.” Hellman did not return our phone call.

But we don’t get it: How can you be against the recall - and say it will damage California’s economy - but also advise one of the recall candidates?

Arnold gets the full treatment from Paul Krugman. The New York Times columnist writes that Arnold has “already managed to say a number of things that his advisers must know are true lies,” such as the state is bleeding jobs and Californians are taxed too much.

“One look at the numbers tells you that his story is fiction. Since the mid-1990’s California has added jobs considerably faster than the nation as a whole. And while the state has been hit hard by the technology slump, it has done no worse than other parts of the country. A recent study found that California’s tech sector had actually weathered the slump better than its counterpart in Texas. Meanwhile, California isn’t a high-tax state: through the 1990’s, state and local taxes as a share of personal income more or less matched the national average, and with the recent plunge in revenue they’re now probably below average.”

He also gets the full treatment from Sen. Feinstein, the Sacramento Bee reports. “‘I would call on Mr. Schwarzenegger to renounce these weapons, absolutely,’ she said, gesturing toward an assault weapon confiscated by police and on display for the press conference. ‘These weapons bring no good to the United States of America. They bring no good to the state of California. And God knows, they bring no good to these cities.’”

“Schwarzenegger’s campaign reiterated the candidate’s support for ‘sensible gun laws’ but wouldn’t say if the candidate supports current state and federal bans on assault weapons.”

The Washington Post addresses the pressing issue of Arnold’s wardrobe, saying his look “is the essence of Tony Soprano meets Gordon Gekko in Vegas.”

The New York Times profiles Bustamante, noting he “has a knack for being at the door when opportunity knocks” - from the Capitol Hill internship that made him leave his back-breaking jackhammer job, to his present attempt to win the recall election.

“The lieutenant governor’s chances were heightened further today when California’s Democratic Congressional delegation and the state’s largest union of teachers put their weight behind his candidacy, reflecting growing worry over Mr. Davis’s ability to defeat the recall.”

Yet the paper also chronicles his gaffes. “In his most embarrassing moment as lieutenant governor, he used a racial slur in remarks he made in February 2001 to a labor group celebrating Black History Month. He apologized repeatedly, saying he had meant to use the word “Negro” instead of the slur, but news reports at the time said some in attendance had walked out in protest.”

Even though the no-yes message might hinder Davis’s fundraising, the Los Angeles Times says Davis just got $1.5 million in checks from some of his most loyal supporters. “Even as his standing with voters continued to sink in recent polls, the Democratic governor’s considerable money-raising skills were in full flower. The gathering produced the largest take of political cash in a day since it became apparent that Davis would face the first-ever effort to recall a sitting California governor.”

In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News Peter Ueberroth says he opposes gay marriage but supports some gay couple rights; doesn’t know enough to have a position on Proposition 54; can’t remember how he voted for Proposition 209, which “prohibited government from giving preferential treatment based on race or gender” in 1998; and supports legislation to force employers to provide medical benefits.

The Los Angeles Times takes a look at Bill Simon and says Simon “is increasingly overshadowed by Republican rival Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose celebrity commands an army of reporters whenever he appears in public.”

“Simon says he wants to talk about the issues. But during his campaign stops, those he encounters - reporters in particular, but often voters as well - want to talk about Schwarzenegger.”

Yet according to the Mercury News , Simon says he’ll stay in the race, despite the talk that a crowded GOP field could jeopardize the party’s chances of capturing the governor’s seat. But State Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim says, “There may come a time where a candidate may need to put aside their personal ambitions for what’s in the best interest of the state, just like Darrell Issa did a couple of weeks ago.”

“You can fit a lot of information on a comb.” - Rep. Brad Sherman, commenting on his plan to order 8,000 combs that say, “No on recall, Yes on Bustamante.”

August 21, 2003 / 5:00 p.m. ET

So how did Arnold do yesterday in his economic presentation to reporters? The reviews are mixed. The San Francisco Chronicle says Arnold was “light on details,” and the headline in the Washington Post “Schwarzenegger Assured, Vague.”

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters has a more nuanced take: “Schwarzenegger’s dilemma is that while he wants to capitalize on his celebrity to gain media attention, he also must meet some undefined threshold of serious capability to win the Oct. 7 election to succeed Gov. Gray Davis....”

“Schwarzenegger didn’t come across as a candidate for a doctorate in economics, but he didn’t make any gross mistakes either during the 40-minute news conference.”

”[H]owever, it’s uncertain whether Schwarzenegger really believes that he must exhibit more than good intentions to take the governorship. His campaign aides have described it as more a campaign of leadership style than specifics. But even if that’s true, there’s still that threshold, and Schwarzenegger still must meet it.”

But Sacbee columnist Daniel Weintraub was (for the most part) pleased by Arnold’s performance.

“Schwarzenegger displayed leadership abilities Wednesday, or at least major league communications skills. He was focused, prepared and in command, quick and at times witty. It would be easy to imagine him in the governor’s office, wooing Democrats and Republicans alike with his charm while threatening to go over their heads to the people if they refused to go along with his program.”

“But for now, Californians are being asked to simply trust him, to believe that this man and the people on whom he relies will be able to pull off a fiscal miracle that so far has eluded the political insiders in Sacramento. And after five years of figures and drafts and percentages but no balanced budget, voters just might be willing to take that chance.”

Meanwhile, we’ve got new poll data to report. The new Public Policy Institute of California has 58 percent of likely voters saying they would vote to recall Davis. And in the battle to replace him, the poll has Arnold in the lead with 23 percent, followed by Cruz Bustamante at 18 percent.

We promised to track whether Conan the Barbarian actually evolves into Arnold the Libertarian. Here’s what he said on the issues yesterday.

On the budget: “We must immediately attack the operating deficit head-on. Does this mean we are going to make cuts? Yes. Does this mean education is on the table? No. Does it mean I’m willing to raise taxes? No.” — Sacramento Bee

“We must have a constitutional spending cap and must immediately attack operating deficits head on.” — New York Times

On the details (or lack thereof) of his budget plan: “Let me tell you something. The public doesn’t care about figures. They’ve heard figures for the last five years. Figures and graphs and percentages and all of those kind of things. What the people want to hear is, is you willing to make the changes, are you tough enough to go in there and provide leadership. That’s what this is about.” — Contra Costa Times

On Proposition 13: He’s for it. “The thing I told Warren is if he mentions Proposition 13 one more time, he has to do 500 sit-ups.” — Sacramento Bee

On taxes: “I feel the people of California have been punished enough. From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet they’re taxed. When they go get a coffee they’re taxed. When they get in their car they’re taxed. When they go to the gas station they’re taxed. When they go to lunch they’re taxed. This goes on all day long. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax.” (New York Times)

However, the Los Angeles Times reports Arnold says, “You can’t ever say never, because we could have next year an earthquake. We could have a natural disaster. We could have a terrorist attack, or something like that. So you can never say, ‘Never, never.’ ”

On immigration: Although he voted for Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot measure denying benefits to illegal immigrants, he said, “I will find a way of working with all immigrants . . . I am very fond of the Latin community,” he said, noting “I’ve done four of my movies in Mexico.” — San Francisco Chronicle

On Proposition 54, the upcoming ballot measure that bans the state from collecting racial data: He’s against it. — New York Times

On working with Democrats: “My answer is that I have lived with a Democrat the last 17 years. I know how to get along with Democrats.” — Washington Post

On his campaign style: “I will not attack. I will not talk about anyone.” — Washington Post

And - drum roll, please - on Rob Lowe: “Rob Lowe is not a senior adviser. Nor is he an adviser. But you know how it is in Hollywood with the publicity agents.” — New York Times

The San Francisco Chronicle writes, “After giving a combative, partisan statewide speech, Davis began Wednesday a series of ‘Conversations with Californians’ - essentially staged town hall meetings at which he can meet one-on-one with voters. It’s a campaign strategy used by former President Bill Clinton, who is advising Davis as the Oct. 7 recall approaches.”

“‘I have faith in God,’ Davis told a town hall audience here, showing a rare personal side. ‘I carry a little card around with me that says, “Nothing will happen to me today that the Lord and I can’t handle together.” I trust you will make a good judgment and I believe in the end, people will want me to continue my job. There are no guarantees in life.’”

Davis also had some tough words for Arnold’s performance yesterday, the Los Angeles Times says. “‘Anyone who wants to take my job ought to have specific plans,’ he said. ‘What are they going to do on electricity? What are they going to do on the budget? What are they going to do on water to make sure we have enough water up and down the state? Not just sound bites, or rehashed phrases from old movies, but specific, concrete plans.’”

Meanwhile, more Clinton help is on the way. The New York Times reports “Ann Lewis, the White House communications director during President Clinton’s impeachment case” is temporarily moving to California to help groups opposing the recall.

Ueberroth told the Sacramento Bee: “I think you’ll find out that I’m the problem solver. I’ve taken other jobs that people told me I’d be nuts to take, and some of them are saying the same things now.”

The paper also breaks down Ueberroth’s economic proposal, which includes:

* An amnesty on back taxes that could generate $5 billion to $6 billion.

* A 5 percent cut in general fund spending that would provide $1.5 billion to $2 billion.

* A hiring freeze and salary review that could save $200 million to $400 million, as well as renegotiation of state worker contracts that could save $800 million to $1 billion.

* And a crackdown on Medi-Cal fraud that his campaign said could save $1.5 billion, three times the amount Bustamante said Tuesday could be saved with a similar effort.”

The Bee also reports Bustamante tied J.Lo as the most admired Latino public figure living in the United States, according to a new poll.

Apparently, the McClintock for Governor “campaign store ” is open. Now you can get your very own McClintock coffee mug, stonewashed hat, and car-window hanger.

We’ve got to go with this one, even though we mentioned it earlier: “From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet they’re taxed. When they go get a coffee they’re taxed. When they get in their car they’re taxed. When they go to the gas station they’re taxed. When they go to lunch they’re taxed. This goes on all day long. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax.” - Arnold.

August 20, 2003 / 12:00 p.m. ET

In his speech yesterday, Gray Davis seemed to say almost all the right things. He took responsibility for some of the state’s problems (although critics argue he didn’t go far enough). He tried to set the record straight on the state’s energy and economic problems, which he pinned on greedy energy companies and Republicans. He said the recall is “part of an ongoing national effort to steal elections Republicans cannot win.” He tied the recall movement to “right-wing forces” (although this argument was undercut somewhat when Cruz Bustamante and the moderate Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the recall race). And he pleaded with Democrats and other Californians to help him defeat the recall. “I need your help,” he said.

But will he get it? We’re not so sure. Polls indicate voters have already made up their minds about Davis. There are also press reports - like this one in the San Francisco Chronicle — that he’s might be having a hard time raising money. Yesterday’s s peech, however, has essentially become Davis’ Last Stand, and we’re interested to see if his poll numbers and fundraising begin to change.

Gray Davis

The Sacramento Bee’s Daniel Weintraub gives his two cents on Davis’ speech. “Press reports in advance of the speech suggested that it would be a mea culpa, but it was more of a they-a culpa. He blamed the feds for the energy crisis and he blamed the economy for the budget crisis.”

“His speech will probably succeed in rallying the Democratic base to his side. But I didn’t hear much that would convince independents or Republicans to support him.”

The Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters argues Davis’s speech “was political propaganda, not straight talk.” On the energy crisis, “Davis glossed over and distorted his refusal early in the crisis to allow utilities to sign long-term supply contracts that would have protected them and their customers from soaring spot market power prices.”

Walters also writes Davis’ record on the budget “differs markedly” from the “self-serving version” he mentioned yesterday.

The San Francisco Chronicle has more. “Labor leaders walked through the crowd distributing posters of former Gov. Pete Wilson dressed as ‘The Terminator,’ with a heading that said: ‘I’m back: Hasta la vista, unions!’”

“In that partisan atmosphere, Davis played to the crowd, noting what he said were GOP failures and roles in state problems.”

And the Los Angeles Times notes few prominent Democrats attended the speech. “Aside from the governor, the most recognizable Democrat in attendance was Henry Cisneros, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton. Many members of the audience, who were invited by Davis’ campaign, were from labor unions and environmental groups.”

The paper adds that Davis was in his usual “wooden” speaking form. “Yet he appeared relaxed at times - even laughing as one man in the audience derided opponent Arnold Schwarzenegger - and received considerable applause from the partisan crowd.”

There were plenty of other reactions. Arianna Huffington: “I liked the speech better when Bill Clinton gave it in 1998 - only this time it is the people of California who are on their knees.”

“Gray Davis said that he’s being attacked for his past mistakes. I’m not as worried about his past mistakes as I am about his future policies. He’s still in the back pocket of special interests and no boilerplate speech can change that.”

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jonathan Wilcox, from the pro-recall group Rescue California: “I finished off the Tums and I’m moving on to the Maalox.... That was a 30-minute attack ad. Gray Davis is going to go out exactly as he came in: blaming, attacking and frankly not telling the truth.”

Davis isn’t the only one making headlines. Today, Arnold meets with his Economic Recovery Council, which includes advisers Warren Buffett and George Schultz, and around 3 p.m. ET, he plans to answer reporters’ questions. If he says anything substantive on the issues - and we’re praying he does - we’ll have the skinny here tomorrow.

The other big Arnold news is his ad that hits the airwaves today. The title of the New York Times’ breakdown of the ad is “Long on Time, Not Details.”

The Los Angles Times breaks down Bustamante’s economic plan, which it says has “little chance of approval in the state Legislature but may appeal to many core Democratic voters.”

“It would raise taxes by nearly $8 billion, including significant increases in income taxes on the state’s top earners and on commercial property - which would require a constitutional amendment to revise Proposition 13. It also would add $1.50 per pack to the cigarette tax and 25 cents per gallon to alcohol taxes.”

“With unspecified budget cuts of $2 billion - along with a crackdown on fraudulent Medi-Cal claims and a measure that would require more employers to provide health coverage - Bustamante said the state could eliminate its projected $8-billion budget shortfall and partially reverse the recent increases in the car tax and community college fees.”

“‘It is tough love, but the people of the state of California understand what it is to make sacrifices,’ Bustamante said.”

The Sacramento Bee has more. “Bustamante continued to walk a fine line between opposing the recall and promoting his own candidacy.”

“He stopped short of criticizing Davis’ handling of the budget, a central theme of the recall. But he also took pains to point out that his proposal differed from the ones Davis made earlier this year, replacing a sales tax hike with increases in an array of business and commercial property taxes.”

The recall just keeps getting stranger. Gubernatorial candidate Scott Winfield Davis has stepped out of the race. Apparently, ”[s]even years ago, he was charged with murder in Atlanta for allegedly killing the lover of his estranged wife and setting the lover’s home and Porsche ablaze. Those charges were dropped for lack of evidence, and Davis says he’s innocent. But the Fulton County, Ga., district attorney told the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday that he still considers Davis ‘the top suspect’ in the case.”

Meanwhile, the Contra Costa Times reports six of the seven top candidates in the race have agreed to a debate sponsored by the Contra Costa Times and KTVU on September 3. Who’s the odd man out? Arnold, of course. Bustamante, McClintock, Simon, Ueberroth, Camejo, and Huffington all say they will attend.

“I think he’s very pretty.” - Bustamante commenting yesterday on MSNBC’s Buchanan and Press about Arnold’s ad.

August 19, 2003 / 5:30 p.m. ET

The polls are against him. Voters say they’ve already made up their minds about him. The press is ignoring him, and is instead sizing up Arnold and Cruz, or even Mary Carey and Gary Coleman.

But tonight at 8 p.m. ET, Gray Davis takes center stage and addresses the recall, giving perhaps the most important speech in his political life. The Los Angeles Times previews the speech. “Aides say he will liken the recall to the impeachment of President Clinton, the 2000 Florida presidential voting fracas and this year’s attempt by Republicans to redraw legislative boundaries in Texas — a fight that twice prompted Democratic lawmakers to flee the state.”

His aides also say Davis “will address two issues that ‘stand between him and voters’ — the energy crisis and the budget deficit — offering explanations for actions that critics say show the governor’s lack of leadership.”

“The governor’s first comprehensive remarks on the campaign come at a moment that many Democratic strategists see as crucial for Davis. The strategists say Davis must counter a growing perception among Democrats that his recall is inevitable and that the best way to keep the governor’s office in Democratic hands is to support Bustamante.”

The speech does seem like a last-ditch effort for Davis to hang on to his job. But at this point, he has nothing to lose, and if things begin to turn around for him — as unlikely as that seems right now - political journalists will be able to point back to this speech.

One thing’s for sure: We’ll be watching.

He’s finally going to talk about the issues — or at least that’s what we’re told. The Sacramento Bee says Arnold will take extensive questions from political reporters on Wednesday. “The Wednesday session in Los Angeles, which will follow a private meeting of his economic advisers, will mark Schwarzenegger’s first in-depth give-and-take with reporters on specific issues.”

Arnold also hits the airwaves on Wednesday. He “has purchased air time in major media markets around the state to begin airing his commercials, and that he will continue using less-conventional campaign venues — such as the popular ‘Oprah’ talk show — to sell himself to voters.”

The Washington Post runs another story about how some conservatives aren’t all that supportive of muscle man. “So what if Arnold Schwarzenegger displays a bust of former president Ronald Reagan in his office? To conservatives, he is no Ronald Reagan. Rush Limbaugh, a Reagan fan, has been sounding the alarm on his radio talk show about Schwarzenegger’s moderate views since the actor announced his intention to challenge Gov. Gray Davis (D) in the Oct. 7 recall election. ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger,’ Limbaugh said the other day, ‘is no conservative. Period.’”

The New York Daily News has Rob Lowe chatting about Arnold on - what else? - the entertainment show, “Extra.” “‘I know that when I’m on a set, I want to know who the director is. I don’t want to have to guess. That’s what Arnold will bring to this state. He’s a leader’ . . .The campaign, he added, would be ‘a tremendous sacrifice for Arnold and for the family to give up their way of life, the privacy they value so much.’”

The San Francisco Chronicle profiles Bustamante. “Short and unassuming, Bustamante has made a career of quietly coming through the middle, surprising people by accidents of timing and good fortune to become, in the age of term limits, a powerful lawmaker and the second- highest-ranking California politician.”

“Now, as he challenges actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a host of other high- profile candidates in the Oct. 7 recall election, Bustamante is beginning the most critical week of his decade-long career in elected office.”

Meanwhile, Bustamante — with his message of “No on recall, Yes on Bustamante” — picked up some key endorsements yesterday from the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Conference of Carpenters, the California State Employees Association, and the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

Yet the Contra Costa Times notes ”[t]he Latino Caucus made its decision despite a request from Davis last week, according to Latino legislators, that members put off a public endorsement until the governor had the opportunity to share his strategy for beating the recall. A spokesman for the governor said he had no knowledge of the conversation.”

The Los Angeles Times also writes about Bill Simon. “Questioned by ABC radio host Sean Hannity about whether Republicans should have one candidate to go up against the one Democrat running to replace Davis, Simon’s voice rose in irritation.”

“‘We don’t know where Mr. Schwarzenegger stands. We haven’t heard a word out of Mr. Schwarzenegger. We don’t know — no, let me finish — we don’t know where Arianna Huffington stands. For all we know, she’s a Democrat. We don’t know where Peter Ueberroth stands. You know, he’s probably a Democrat. So when you say the Democrats have one candidate, I would disagree with you. I actually think the Democrats have a couple of candidates.’”

Finally, a spokesman for the Huffington campaign tells us Arianna also plans to give a series of substantive policy speeches - the big one being a speech in San Francisco next Wednesday or Thursday about her plan to solve the budget crisis. In addition, the spokesman says that, early next week, she will begin running her first TV ads, which will portray her as the only independent candidate who can help solve the state’s problems.

“Good news for Gary Coleman. He got his first endorsement today from the Lollipop Guild.” — Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.

August 18, 2003 / 12:45 p.m. ET

Cruz Bustamante and Bill Simon made plenty of recall news Sunday on Meet the Press. All of the California papers play up Bustamante’s comment to Brian Williams about Gov. Gray Davis’ “minions” who are undercutting the Bustamante campaign (see below).

But we thought the most intriguing thing was Simon bobbing and weaving Williams’ questions about whether Simon would stay in the race until the very end. Last week, the press ran stories about GOP attempts get Simon, Tom McClintock, and Peter Ueberroth to drop out and support Arnold, because of fears that a split Republican vote could hand Bustamante the election. Simon’s people stressed to the papers - and to us - that he was staying the race and that he could beat Arnold.

But unless we’re missing something, Simon seemed to backtrack a little on this subject. Take a look at the Meet the Press transcript.

Williams: Mr. Simon, are you in this race till the very end?

Simon: I’m in this race, Brian. I’m not under any pressure to quit. The bottom line is this: What we need to do now is campaign hard for the next 52 days, give our citizens a message, a vision for the state of California....

Williams: Still, there is this pressure, and I’m going to read you a quote from David Dreier, chairman of the California GOP congressional delegation: “...at the end of the day, I do hope that Bill Simon, Tom McClintock and Peter Ueberroth all rally around Arnold. We need someone who will be an amazingly successful, charismatic and exciting ambassador for California around the world. And that someone is Arnold.”

I’ll ask again, sir, are you in this till the very end, no questions?

Simon: You know, I’m running hard, Brian, and I’ll just say this. I admire Mr. Dreier, but I’ve got other endorsements. This is not about endorsements. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing.

Interesting, huh?

The San Francisco Chronicle writes about how Davis is positioning himself to the left to save his job, and how me might even offer an apology to Californians. “The Davis camp is considering a statewide address in which he would issue a kind of mea culpa for California’s travails over the past few years, and then light out on a series of listening engagements throughout the state modeled on Hillary Clinton’s strategy in her successful race for the U.S. Senate in New York in 2000, sources close to the campaign say.”

The Washington Post has more on Davis: “Shadowed by the threat of being thrown out of office in a historic recall vote, Davis is constantly bounding into public view these days to court stalwart but disenchanted Democratic constituencies across the state with a relentless, and rare, charm offensive.”

“Once he could take them for granted. Now, he needs every last one of their votes — and getting them is the cornerstone of his last-ditch strategy to survive.”

According to the Contra Costa Times, in an effort to boost Davis’ numbers, Democrats are trying to “push a host of legislation” through the state house doors before time is up. “Everything from workers’ compensation reform that socks businesses with the cost of regulating the program, which unions favor, to a $500 million repayment to the state teacher retirement fund, sought by the California Teachers Association, could move swiftly through the Legislature.”

“If Democrats continue to believe they could lose the recall, there’s no telling what else could be cooked up.”

The San Francisco Chronicle observes just how strange and volatile the recall election is becoming. But it notes that one thing was certain last week: Arnold didn’t fare so well. “The self-described fiscal conservative signed on a billionaire who thinks California’s property taxes are too low. He couldn’t remember a meeting with disgraced Enron executive Ken Lay. He hired campaign consultants with questionable pasts. Actor Rob Lowe joined as a volunteer campaign adviser.”

“All of this gave the political and media establishment exactly what they were looking for: An opening to question Schwarzenegger’s abilities as a candidate. The establishment likes to think the world of politics is the most brutal of all, where even Mr. Olympia can be reduced to a crying wimp when he doesn’t play by the regular rules.”

But Arnold still has several things going for him. “Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, says Schwarzenegger has good gut instincts when it comes to dealing with the media. Whalen says Maria Shriver, the actor’s wife and a TV journalist, also should provide expert advice on wading into the world of political media.”

“But Whalen says he thinks the shortness of the campaign leaves very little room for Schwarzenegger to explain his policy positions to voters. Ultimately, those voters may make their decisions based on gut instincts — on whether they like his personality and whether they can trust him.”

While Arnold may not be giving specifics about his positions on the issues, he certainly is letting Californians know about what kind of products he likes - from Hummers and Lifecycle exercise machines to his newest Terminator movie - the Los Angeles Times writes. “On half a dozen occasions, Schwarzenegger has worked into his public statements the brand names of products with which he has long business, charitable and personal associations. Offered as tiny asides, the product references have provided the few specifics of his campaign appearances.”

“‘It may well be a very strategic way of reinforcing his political brand by association with certain products that show fitness or strength,’ said Dominique Hanssens, a marketing professor at UCLA. ‘In that case, you have a win-win situation, in which the brand helps the candidate and the candidate helps the brand.’”

The Los Angeles Times has Cruz Bustamante griping about Davis and his aides. “‘If he worked with me a little bit more, I think we could make sure ... that the Democratic Party kept a hold of this position,’ Bustamante said on NBC’s Meet the Press.”

“‘If some of the governor’s minions would stop trying to undercut my efforts ... we have the possibility of having a win-win position on the ballot.’”

The paper also writes about Simon’s new radio ad that takes a jab at Arnold. “‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’s team wants to triple our property taxes,’ Simon says in the ad. ‘Which just goes to show you: Don’t send a liberal to do a tax-fighter’s job.’”

The Sacramento Bee has more on the burgeoning Bustamante-Davis grudge match. “Bustamante’s chief consultant charged that Davis aides are calling Indian tribal leaders and others to urge them not to support Bustamante.”

“‘They’re contacting potential supporters and contributors and telling them don’t give (money) and don’t support Bustamante’s effort,’ said Richie Ross, Bustamante’s consultant.”

But the paper has Davis’ aides downplaying the conflict. “‘The governor and Mrs. Davis have been very complimentary toward the lieutenant governor,’ Gabriel Sanchez, a spokesman for the Davis campaign, said Sunday afternoon. ‘There is no ill will here. It’s just not true. We’re focused on urging voters to vote no on the recall, and we welcome the lieutenant governor’s support in that effort.’”

The San Francisco Chronicle has its version of Bustamante versus Davis.

According to the Los Angeles Times, it’s dj vu all over again for Simon in his bid for governor. “Simon 2.0 has started right back up where the first campaign left off, but, he hopes, with ‘a few less mistakes.’”

The New York Daily News reports that ”[p]int-sized actor Gary Coleman and porn star Mary Carey have agreed to appear on the Game Show Network’s special pitting candidates for the governorship of California against each other.” The “debate” will air on October 1. “Coleman said last week that he’ll try to ease California’s persistent traffic snarls if he’s elected. Carey said she hopes to raise money for the state by installing live Webcams in the governor’s mansion.”

It isn’t a single quote, but this exchange reported in Saturday’s New York Times had us chuckling throughout the weekend.

“‘How are you?’ Mr. Simon said, holding out his hand to a wary-looking Jesse Young, seated at a table facing the freeway in Stockton, just over 300 miles north of Los Angeles. ‘My name’s Bill Simon, and I’m running for governor.’”

“Mr. Young replied: ‘No kidding. I’m running for governor, too.’ He turned to the man across the table, Jim Eakes. ‘How about you, Jim - you running for governor?’”

Mr. Eakes: “Sure, I’m running for governor.”

August 15, 2003 / 5:35 p.m. ET

A funny thing has happened on the way to Gray Davis’ likely recall from office. He’s acting gubernatorial, hardly like the prodigious fundraiser-in-chief or the unlikable dirty campaigner he’s usually known as. With the entire nation paying attention, he’s been signing legislation, holding press conferences (that have nothing to do with the recall), and appointing judges.

And in the process — as unbelievable as it sounds — we’re beginning to have some sympathy for the guy. Davis’ transformation, in fact, is pretty remarkable, whether or not it’s a result of Bill Clinton’s advice, or because Davis wants to prove his critics wrong, or because he knows he’s a goner.

The more active and more likable Davis was on display on CNN’s Larry King Live last night, commenting on the East Coast blackouts. An excerpt:

“I have taken a lot of hits lately, Larry. But the people I represent have had harder time. This national economy has not been good for California or 47 other states. So I’m working every day to do my best to make things better. We got a budget done. We are going to have a privacy bill, which is real important, so people can control their own personal financial data. We will get worker’s compensation reforms so public, non-profit cities and businesses don’t have to bear these costs. I will spend every day trying to make things better, whether that’s 60 days or three years.”

But that LKL performance hasn’t stopped Republican candidates from taking a few jabs at him. A Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman tells NBC’s Elizabeth Wilner that if Davis — who’s associated with his state’s own power outages and blackouts — wants to go on national TV, that’s great from their point of view. (Schwarzenegger’s spouse, Maria Shriver, is on a leave of absence from NBC News)

Moreover, John Feliz, Tom McClintock’s campaign manager, jokes that Davis was somehow responsible for yesterday’s blackouts. “We were thinking: ‘Where was Gray Davis?’ when this happened.”

Davis also gets some more bad news: the new statewide Field Poll shows that “support for the recall has jumped in one month from 51 percent to 58 percent of likely voters, while opposition has dropped from 43 percent to 37 percent,” reports the Contra Costa Times.

Speaking of Mr. Feliz, he has some pretty sharp words about Warren Buffett’s remarks in today’s Wall Street Journal, in which Buffett suggests that California property taxes need to be raised. Feliz argues that the comments by Buffett - who is Arnold’s new financial adviser — will “detonate” the Schwarzenegger campaign ship before it leaves the harbor. “This issue of property taxes is such a sore point in California.”

He adds: “First they take my car [with the car-tax hike]. Now they want to take my house. This is out of control.”

To be fair, however, the article stresses that Buffett “stopped short of saying he would urge Mr. Schwarzenegger to seek … to increase property taxes…. But he left little doubt that that is where he is leaning.”

Another article that has driven conservatives bonkers is a story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, which says Republican leaders are “working overtime to persuade” McClintock, Peter Ueberroth, and Bill Simon to drop out and clear the field for Arnold. But a spokesman for the Simon campaign tells us such a suggestion is a “falsehood” and a sign that the Republican establishment is getting worried that Simon might actually win. “Bill Simon can beat Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 7,” the spokesman says.

And for those who are worried the Arnold campaign doesn’t have enough Hollywood-star power: the Los Angeles Times reports Rob Lowe is expected to join Arnold’s team.

“I heard I was needed, I came.” — Sam Seaborn, Lowe’s character on The West Wing.

August 14, 2003 / 6:00 p.m. ET

Media reporters are now hitting the recall story from all angles. TV folks can’t get enough of all the celebs (past and present, big-screen and videotape) who are running - Arnold, Gary Coleman, Larry Flynt, Gallagher, and the porn star. The print people are fixated on the candidates’ fundraising and campaign strategies, and also on the help Bill and Hillary Clinton might give Gray Davis (today’s New York Post casts some doubt that help will come). And the big thinkers are examining the Latino vote’s impact and whether or not other states will begin to replicate California’s recall provision.

But what ever happened to the story about the state budget crisis, which Davis critics cite as the reason for the recall? A few media outlets are finally beginning to turn back to this story after the state government passed its patchwork budget deal.

National Journal recently ran a smart story noting that in all the possible recall scenarios — Davis actually survives; Davis doesn’t, and Bustamante takes his place; or Davis is recalled, and a Republican succeeds him — it’s unlikely the state’s budget crisis will improve. California’s numerous initiatives that mandate state spending, its two-thirds vote to pass a state budget, and its Proposition 13 tax revolt (which limited property tax increases) all make it very difficult to balance a budget.

Today’s Washington Post makes a similar point. “Whoever is elected governor is essentially running up against the same wall, a budget that is increasingly paralyzed by initiatives,” Leon Panetta, the former White House chief of staff and Californian congressman, tells the paper.

Californians, however, seem to think the recall will actually make things better. According to Monday’s NBC News poll, 53 percent of the state’s registered voters say the recall election will help get the economy back on track, and 50 percent say it will help deal with budget deficit. And if he becomes governor, Arnold even says having Warren Buffett as his new adviser “will be a huge help” in tackling the state’s fiscal woes.

But we’re not so sure.

For the second day in a row, there hasn’t been much news on the recall front. Arnold has been conducting private meetings today. Bill Simon has continued his meet-and-greet tour through the state. And Arianna Huffington held a press conference in Beverly Hills, trying to link Arnold with President Bush.

Arianna continued to blast Arnold in an interview with MSNBC’s John Elliot. “I find it amazing that Arnold Schwarzenegger has not answered a single substantive question,” she said. “Answering questions is not that dangerous. I suggest he try it.”

But Elliot made her answer a tough question — about the Los Angeles Times report that she has paid no state income taxes and just $771 in federal taxes in the last two years. Her response: “I’m not as rich as people thought.... I’m a writer so my income fluctuates.... There is absolutely nothing here.” Huffington will say more on MSNBC’s Buchanan and Press at 6 p.m. ET. (Schwarzenegger’s spouse, Maria Shriver, is on a leave of absence from NBC News)

In other news, a debate is now on tap for the top-polling California recall candidates. The California Broadcasters Association will sponsor a 90-minute “Voice Your Choice” debate between the top contenders to be broadcast on TV and radio on September 17. According to the AP, “Davis won’t be part of the debate, but will be offered the chance to make a taped appeal to voters and provide his perspective on the recall.”

In addition, the Contra Costa Times and KNTV will sponsor a debate between top-tier candidates on Sept. 3.

And here’s some hard recall news: the upcoming People magazine will have — who else? — Arnold and Maria on its cover. The magazine takes a look “inside their marriage” and reveals Arnold once sewed a quilt for Maria as a wedding anniversary present, and it now serves as their bedspread.

“We got all the names necessary and we paid the fee and we filed the papers.... But whatever way it’ll turn out, that’s fate.” — Mathilda Spak, the 100-year-old woman whose gubernatorial candidacy was sponsored by the 99 Cents Only Stores, commenting about not making the certified list of candidates released yesterday. According to the secretary of state’s office, Spak did not turn in the necessary 65 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

August 13, 2003 / 5:30 p.m. ET

All’s quiet on the recall front — at least compared with the last few days. NBC’s Cecilia Alvear reports Arnold has been locked up with his advisors today. Ditto for Cruz Bustamante. Bill Simon, meanwhile, has been doing the meet-and-greet thing in San Francisco and Eureka, and Tom McClintock has been hitting the radio-interview circuit. And we’re eagerly awaiting the final certified list of candidates that Secretary of State Kevin Shelley will produce by the end of the day.

The one person who has been making some noise, however, is Gray Davis, but that noise has little to do directly with the recall. As the whole media throng is reporting — most notably the New York Times — Davis is receiving advice from Bill Clinton, and that advice is this: “You continue to do the job [as governor], and you continue to tell people that you are doing the job.”

So Davis is spending the day signing legislation that benefits women’s reproductive health, that prohibits the disclosure of child pornography evidence to anyone other than the appropriate attorneys, and that provides equal funding to desalination projects. (Yes, the e-mails from the governor’s office are flooding our in-boxes.) He’s even begun to churn out judicial appointments, the AP writes.

But is this enough to keep his job? No, and Davis realizes this. As one Davis adviser tells NBC political director Elizabeth Wilner, the governor can’t ignore the 800-pound gorilla that’s become the recall. And so, this adviser says, he needs to take a three-pronged approach: 1) demonstrate his activities as governor (as he’s been doing today); 2) defend and explain what he has done as governor; and 3) raise doubts about the entire recall, especially its cost. The adviser adds the timing is still being worked out when Davis will actually address those last two points.

Speaking of working out the timing, we’re eagerly waiting the policy position papers that Arnold’s campaign has promised. When they come out, we’ll have the skinny for you. But we just found out that Arnold will have a pretty smart (and wealthy) guy working for him on economic and financial issues, Warren Buffett. And, no, this is not a joke.

Meanwhile, we just got word Arianna Huffington will hold a press conference Thursday at 2 p.m. ET at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where she will try to link Arnold with President Bush, who will be swinging through the state Thursday. The Beverly Hills Hotel, Huffington spokesman Parker Blackman says, is where former Enron head (and Bush buddy) Ken Lay once met with Schwarzenegger.

In other Huffington news, the Los Angeles Times reports today that she and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo (who got 5 percent of the vote in last year’s gubernatorial election) might form an “unorthodox alliance,” in which they would jointly campaign for issues and then determine which of them is best prepared “to sprint to the finish line.”

Could such an independent-Green alliance hurt Cruz Bustamante — the only major Democrat in question two of the recall ballot — in a similar way that Ralph Nader hurt Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election? Well, we called Bustamante’s political guru, Richie Ross, to get an answer.

Ross admits a candidate never wants votes taken away from him, but he believes this election, in which the victor will probably be decided by a small plurality, is a much different animal than the 2000 presidential race. And Ross expects Bustamante to make up any loss of progressive voters by picking up Latino Republicans.

Ross also says the Bustamante campaign will portray the lieutenant governor as an ordinary guy. “He is a guy who is average in so many ways, except when it comes to his sense of who he is and what he believes in.” Moreover, he says, Bustamante will tout his working knowledge of the state government.

Furthermore, Ross tells us Bustamante will be spending a lot of his time over the next couple of weeks raising money, since he’s one of the few major candidates who isn’t independently wealthy. “We’re not in a position to write a check,” Ross says. “We have to raise some money.” And as result, Bustamante’s TV ads will probably hit the airwaves at a much later date than his opponents’ ads will.

Is that going to hurt him? Ross doesn’t think so. He says the recall so far has been a wild party, but that voters “don’t drink and drive.” When the election nears, he adds, they will sober up and pick the sober candidate - who he believes is Bustamante.

Finally, we already mentioned Nader, but he made recall news of his own yesterday. The Contra Costa Times reports a pie struck him in the face during a rally where he endorsed Camejo, the Green candidate.

From the Los Angeles Times: “I’m quite sure this attack came from a Democrat. What that person just did physically is what the Democrats have been doing to Nader ideologically. I think it’s sick.” — Camejo, on the pie attack.

“Another absolute lie by Camejo. I would predict it was one of the other Green Party candidates on the ballot or one could speculate it was an inside job, for press attention.” — California Democratic Party campaign advisor Bob Mulholland.

This recall story just gets better and better, doesn’t it?

August 12, 2003 / 6:30 p.m. ET

This new column coincides with the release of the NBC News poll on the California recall, and the poll makes one thing pretty clear: more and more, Gov. Gray Davis is facing an uphill climb to hold on to his job. According to the poll, 59 percent of registered California voters say they’d vote to recall Davis, while only 35 percent they’d vote not to. In addition, 72 percent believe the state is on the wrong track. And here’s even worse news for the governor: 53 percent say the recall election would help get the state’s budget back on track, and 50 percent say it will would help deal with the budget deficit.

“Davis is in terrible shape,” says pollster Bob Teeter, who conducted this poll with Peter Hart. “All the recall questions and Davis questions are really negative.”

What’s a little less clear from the poll is the race to succeed Davis. Arnold has strong positive numbers (50 percent positive versus 25 negative); he gets support for all groups (Democrats and Republicans, whites and non-whites); and he leads the pack among other candidates by a large margin; (he gets 31 percent compared with 18 percent for the next highest candidate, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante; Republicans Bill Simon and Peter Ueberroth get 6 percent apiece, and Independent Arianna Huffington and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock each get 4 percent). Yet with all the press he’s received after his stunning announcement, Arnold could very well be at the peak of his popularity. And as Teeter points out, we’re still “two or three turns of the wheel before the election.”

But as it stands now, that wheel might not need to be turned to determine Davis’s fate.

Davis appeared on Today with his wife, Sharon, and besides calling the recall “an insult” to Californians, he addressed a smorgasbord of other issues. On Arnold: “I think Arnold Schwarzenegger will be the first to tell you he’s got a long ways to go to explain what he would do as governor.” On whether Bustamante is being disloyal by running: “Look, I didn’t ask a single person to stay out of this recall. People make their own decisions whether to run or not.” And on whether Bill or Hillary Clinton will campaign for him: “Well, I haven’t specifically asked them, but I guess I’m asking them now.”

Meanwhile, the Stand Up for California Coalition — the anti-recall group led by California labor leader Art Pulaski — held a strategy session this afternoon to go over their own polling to see what’s the best message, and who’s the best messenger, to defeat the recall. Although the results weren’t available before our deadline, one source close to the labor movement says the poll suggests Arnold “is less popular with union members than he is with the general population.” However, this poll was taken before Arnold’s bombshell announcement on Wednesday.

The source also disagrees with the new article in Time magazine, which reports that “panic-stricken union officials” have begun putting out the word that Davis shouldn’t count on receiving the $10 million he wants from them. “We are going to mount an enormous campaign to defeat the recall,” the source says.

In other news, the San Jose Mercury News reports that green friendly groups are rallying support for Davis: “Support from mainstream environmentalists comes in response not just to Davis’ record, but also to the fear that a new governor might be an environmentally unfriendly conservative, or a candidate like Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose agenda is unclear.”

Arnold spoke today in New York City, touting after-school programs. But he said nothing about his candidacy, and he didn’t take questions from the media throng. However, he did get in a good one-liner. “Look at the press back there,” he said to the children in attendance. “They are here for you.” (Schwarzenegger’s spouse, Maria Shiver, is on a leave of absence from NBC News)

When Arnold hit the talk-show circuit on Friday, he was, well, a tad vague on the issues facing California. Just to see how — or if — Conan the Barbarian evolves into Arnold the Libertarian, we will begin tracking his statements on the issues. We’ll start this feature by including what National Journal’s Hotline compiled on Friday.

On how he will improve the budget crisis as governor: “The first and most important thing is it takes leadership. ... Davis is the man who has sold himself as the one who has experience that you cannot buy. What has it gotten us? ... You have to be a uniter not a divider. ... You have to bring the parties together. ... You have to bring businesses back to California.” (NBC’s Today)

On if he would choose to either cut programs or raise taxes first: “I think there is a third solution, which is you have to bring businesses back to California. We have the most unfriendly business environment in California of any state. ... Jobs are getting lost. ... We have to make it business friendly.” (CBS’s Early Show)

On if Bush is at fault for some of the state’s economic problems: “I don’t mix apples and oranges. The fact of the matter is I look at the state.” (ABC’s Good Morning America)

On whether or not he supports gay marriage: “I don’t want to get into that right now because as we go on with the campaign we will be addressing all of those issues. Right now, I just want to tell you that for me the important thing is to go after the economy, to bring businesses back and reforming the political system up in Sacramento.” (ABC’s Good Morning America)

Yet, as the Sacramento Bee reports, we do know his position on one controversial subject: he supported Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot measure denying benefits to illegal immigrants.

But Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub believes Arnold’s campaign handled this revelation quite well. “As an observer, I think the most important development in the entire story ... was that Arnold’s campaign responded immediately, didn’t say they didn’t know how he voted or that Arnold couldn’t remember how he voted, and put out a positive statement in which Arnold defended his position. If they had done otherwise, the story would have been not only that he might have backed 187 but that his campaign was in disarray in its early days.”

At a press conference today, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said that 195 candidates have filed paperwork to succeed Davis — 96 of them are fully qualified, while 99 are still under review.

Meanwhile, on Today, Cruz Bustamante declared that his candidacy provides a “second, very positive option” for Californians. “I’m there just in case,” he said. He also chimed in on Arnold’s support of Prop. 187: “I think it’s going to hurt him with a lot more than the Latino community.”

Also on Today, Bill Simon stressed his support for smaller government, better schools, and a better quality of life. “I will be the candidate of ideas.”

Heads up: MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews talks with Democratic Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown, Republican Strategist Ed Rollins, and Republican Rep. David Dreier at 7 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, Scarborough Country has Ex-Gov. Pete Wilson and gubernatorial candidate — and former Diff’rent Strokes star — Gary Coleman at 10 p.m. ET.

“Basically, if you have above-average intelligence, you have common sense and you can speak in front of a camera and to a crowd, you can govern the state” — Jerry Brown, the former Democratic California governor and the current mayor of Oakland.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive

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