Team Arnold lost his Big Four measures -- Propositions 74 through 77 -- on the California ballot Tuesday because this band of political hired guns deserved to lose. They ran a cynical campaign.
After Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's big recall-election win in 2003 and his successful fight in 2004 against some well-funded ballot measures -- like the two Big Casino measures and a three-strikes makeover that rode high in the polls until he opposed it -- the team figured he could sell anything to the California voter. So they didn't do a careful job of lining up initiatives with curb appeal to voters. They campaigned as if they could skate by on his Hollywood looks.
Their biggest mistake was to use the initiative process as a substitute for governing. For all his tough talk, Schwarzenegger has failed to pass a budget that spends less or even as much as the state takes in. That is a failing. Worse, the muscle man asked the voters to solve the budget problem by passing his "Live Within Our Means" measure, Proposition 76. It could have been dubbed: Stop Me Before I Spend Too Much.
Democrat Roger Salazar of the "No" camp got it right when he noted that California voters felt "no sense of urgency" and hence saw no reason for the special election. They wanted Schwarzenegger to govern, not to make them do homework.
I don't understand why Team Arnold was so blase about the disinformation thrown against it. Why didn't they hustle to set the record straight? Take the charge that Schwarzenegger took away $2 billion from public schools, when state school spending increased by $3 billion this year.
I'm not saying members of Team Arnold didn't put in long hours on the campaign trail. I am saying that they didn't have one vital ingredient: true belief in the cause.
If they believed that the state really needed these measures to right itself, that conviction was never communicated to the voters.
Say what you will about the "no" forces, but you must admit this: They believed in what they were doing, and never left anyone in doubt on that score.
The governor's team, in contrast, believed they were the most clever minds in the room. It didn't help that the California electorate wants the impossible -- more government without paying for it -- and the public-employee unions were ready to tell them they could have it. They could wail about how Schwarzenegger was not spending promised money on schools without having to discuss who would pay for higher school funding.