Robert Novak

LOS ANGELES -- Last Sunday, a well-placed California Democrat candidly laid out to me the situation here. Democratic Gov. Gray Davis has run a horrible campaign against his recall. The effort by Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat on the replacement ballot, has been even worse. Consequently, another Republican actor might soon occupy the governor's chair in Sacramento, marking the first major Democratic defeat in this state since 1994.

But then this Democrat ended our long conversation with a startling prophecy, indicating that help was on the way. 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.

My source's prophecy became reality within less than 24 hours, including the detail of citing the 2000 election decision. So much for the myth of judicial objectivity. The notoriously liberal 9th Circuit of Court of Appeals had struck to terminate the terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been on a roll, climaxed by an impressive performance at the state Republican Convention in Los Angeles last weekend. Unless the panel is reversed, the Republican momentum will be dissipated by a six-month campaign, giving Democrats a fresh start.

The Republican establishment has gotten behind the Hollywood actor and former Mr. Universe in a way that seemed inconceivable when I made my last reporting trip to California several weeks ago. At the state convention, conservatives chose to ignore Schwarzenegger's social liberalism and embraced him as a disciple of Milton Friedman's economic conservatism. "I'm a Republican because Milton Friedman is right and Karl Marx is wrong," he told cheering delegates. They were moved by his story of how he commissioned the bust of Ronald Reagan for the Reagan Library.

Robert Novak

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

©Creators Syndicate