If the secretary of state plays it straight up, a replacement election could happen as early as September that would pit Davis on a ballot against any number of opponents. That would benefit Schwarzenegger, whose name identification and image could attract both independent and moderate Democratic votes, as well as conservative ones. Word is that Riordan, who lost the GOP primary to Simon in 2002, has agreed to work with Schwarzenegger to determine which of these two moderates will run. It's an open question if Simon or Issa can overcome the star power of Schwarzenegger, or the more broad-based appeal of Riordan.
Even more interesting is that any Californian with 65 signatures and $3,500 can place their names on the same ballot. The candidate with the most votes wins. This alone has caused both conservatives and liberals to question the sanity of the whole recall process in California. But for Republicans, it could be a tremendous opportunity.
Readers should keep their eyes on this story for other reasons, too: First, Davis is not the only governor facing a near-collapse of state government. Budgetary constraints are making incumbents unpopular throughout the nation. But Davis' pickle is by far the worst, and it's compounded by his plastic, arrogant manner.
Second, the pitiful response to all of this from hardcore Democrats supporting Davis may be indicative of how truly out of touch the party is on a national level. When Howard Dean is leading in fundraising among Democratic presidential hopefuls and Al Sharpton is receiving ovations for telling a crowd he's the only candidate who's spent time in jail, the national party may be headed to a George McGovern-like miscalculation in choosing its nominee to oppose President Bush.
Finally, this could be another test of the GOP's ability to make smart strategic decisions in critical elections. Will Republicans be willing to accept Schwarzenegger or Riordan as a potentially "moderate" GOP governor in exchange for dumping the seemingly worthless Davis? Or will they back one of the more conservative candidates, thereby running the risk of the recall becoming a re-election of Gov. Davis by default? In this case, Republicans would be wise to be pragmatic and go with a sure Terminator.