Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Well, wasn't that debate just ducky?
The California Broadcasters' Association held the First and Only Candidates Debate With Arnold In It tonight from the campus of Cal State Sacramento. Present were the usual suspects: Arnold, State Senator Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), Green Party candidate Peter Camejo, "Progressive Independent" Arianna Huffington (I-Ambition), and Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante (D-Tribal Gaming). Weintraub should have some of the first good after action reports on his Sacramento Bee blog.
Here's my unofficial take on the night's event in Kalley Fohr Neee Yah.
Arnold had the most to lose. He had to get past the bar of respectability. He did so by not trying to be a wonk, but by being Arnold: Angry Citizen and Change Agent. While he did allow himself to get in a couple of hair pulls with Arianna Huffington, all in all he achieved what he wanted to achieve: he framed his issues and his personality across to the electorate.
However, while many observers indicated that the crosstalk with Arianna might have hurt him, I don't see it that way. Huffington was being an insufferable bore several times during the debate. Arnold got the line of the night after Huffington hit him with a personal attack when he indicated that Arianna would definitely have a part in Terminator 4. He got off the best soundbites, and his closing statement connected with the viewing audience. Arnold was the big winner.
The other big winner was Tom McClintock. At this point, Tom is head of his own Cargo Cult. The California conservatives love him. He's considered to be the Young Reagan out there and has national potential, at least in my opinion. But his main problem is that he has not won a statewide election as of yet. Tonight, he avoided direct attacks on Arnold and concentrated fire on Bustamante. He was considered to be the winner on both points, substance, and specificity tonight. Right now, he won't reach out much past his base vote in this truncated election. However, there is talk among Republicans that, having given himself nationwide recognition, his next logical step would be to try to bypass the House and go directly after Barbara Boxer's seat in the Senate.
Peter Camejo and Arianna Huffington had relatively little to offer. As I commented on FreeRepublic, Arianna was irritating enough to be classified by me as a hemmerhoid on the rectum of life (a remark that got pulled by the Admin Moderator; everyone has to cross the line once in a while).
The guy who was really hammered was Cruz Bustamante. He has been taking it on the chin for taking campaign money from the Indian Gaming industry. He just got hit by a court order to return the cash, and there is a wild rumor running around that he's just a stalking horse for Governor Gray Davis and that he'll pull out to make this a Davis vs. Arnold affair. Some folk indicated that Davis' prospect for beating the recall improve if Cruz leaves. I'm not so sure. My thinking is that Arnold won't scare people off, and I believe that to be the operating assumption of the Davis campaign.
Arnold didn't scare anyone tonight, except the Democratic leadership in Sacramento. I think he's won himself the governorship.