Robert Novak

All may be dwarfed by a liberal Republican: former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. After losing to conservative Simon in the 2002 GOP primary, Riordan has asked for White House help in clearing out the rest of the Republicans. Since that is patently impossible, Riordan may run as an independent.

Gerald Parsky, the investment banker who is Bush's main political agent here, has not joined the recall movement. "I understand why people in California would be upset by the financial crisis," Parsky told me, "but my first priority is the re-election of the president and getting the financing necessary to accomplish this."

Other Republican critics of the recall see a nightmare scenario where Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the state's most popular politician, enters the race and easily wins -- replacing a 21 percent favorable Democrat with a 62 percent favorable. But Feinstein is on record against Davis's recall and can hardly urge voters to vote for her on the same ballot.

The same conflict afflicts other Democrats who are more likely to run than Feinstein: Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, State Treasurer Phil Angelides and maybe San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. It least affects State Senate President John Burton, who detests Davis and is ready to run. (One of Burton's supporters, a well-known Democrat, told me he is tempted to sign a Davis recall petition.)

Fear by leading Republicans that any one of these Democrats probably will replace Davis reflects the GOP establishment's defeatism, resulting from the state party's 2002 wipeout. The prospects for a recall, however, have lifted spirits of California grassroots Republicans, who hope a low-turnout autumn election will defeat the Democrats. Whether or not that appraisal is realistic, it is becoming too late to stop the runaway recall.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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