The principal reason to think that Bush can carry California in 2004 after losing it so badly in 2000 is the changing Latino vote. In contrast to African-Americans' monolithic support for Democrats, Latinos are in play politically. The president's private polls give him 40 percent support for re-election from this bloc. Schwarzenegger got 30 percent on Oct. 7 -- an even more remarkable number than Bush's support because this was in an actual election and was picked up against an Hispanic-American Democrat as his principal opponent, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
That 30 percent of Latinos supported a candidate who seemed less of a Republican than the state's previous three GOP governors over the last 40 years. Conservatives shuddered when Schwarzenegger breakfasted last week with prominent Los Angeles Democrat Robert Hertzberg, former speaker of the Assembly and currently a law partner of former Clinton political strategist Mickey Kantor. Hertzberg is reported to be set for a major post in the Schwarzenegger administration, but not a policymaking function.
Prominence in Schwarzenegger's campaign of former moderate Gov. Pete Wilson's political team also causes concern on the right. Even Bush's operatives worry about the presence of Don Sipple, a Wilson alumnus who did an excellent job on Schwarzenegger's media program during the campaign.
Nevertheless, sources close to the governor-elect insist that Sipple and everybody else on the inside are firmly against raising taxes. The argument that Republican governors dating back to Ronald Reagan pushed a tax increase is economically irrelevant when California businesses are leaving the state and politically irrelevant when the state's citizens are waging a tax revolt.
It is no secret that investment banker Gerald Parsky, the president's main man in California, was not originally enthusiastic about recalling Davis. But in the state's transformed political world, Parsky is seen in Washington as a guardian against an insensate tax increase that would negate his three years of hard work to guarantee George W. Bush's re-election.