November 08, 2005,
Today is Judgment Day for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The California governor chose to call a special election, and today we'll know the results. The cost to the state's taxpayers was at least $40 million dollars. In addition, the campaign spending for all the ballot propositions will total roughly a quarter billion dollars.
For months and weeks, the Schwarzenegger camp has fed favorable numbers to its leading donors, conservative columnists, and websites. Long ago, when public polls first showed his ballot propositions did not look promising, his spinners told gullible reporters that the public polls phrased the questions incorrectly. Weeks ago, conservative bloggers, spoon-fed spin, were writing that the four ballot propositions were gaining, and were even ahead.
But the internal Schwarzenegger polls are much different. The flagship Proposition 76, to restructure the state budget process, has been dead in the water from the beginning, and it will lose big-time. As would be expected, it brings down Proposition 77 (redistricting) with it, which was opposed anyway by the White House, Republican National Committee, Karl Rove, Dick Armey, and other far-out liberals. Then, there is Proposition 75 ("paycheck protection"), a likely winner until Schwarzenegger's team adopted it along with Prop 77, and slated them as part of their abruptly defined reform package (74-75-76-77). And that brings us to Schwarzenegger's Prop 74, a meritorious reform of teaching hiring and firing. That will likely go down the tubes, a victim of Prop 76, which is seen as an affront to the sanctity of public education (76 would modify the minimum funding of public education). Prop 74 is closer than the others, so the Schwarzenegger camp still hopes to win one. I, for one, would applaud such a victory and give them credit, but it may be wishful thinking.
It's hard to imagine 74 bucking the tide. And that brings us to Proposition 73, parental consent for a minor's abortion. This is normally a winner everywhere and had been running predictably ahead for months. It had been irresponsibly placed on the ballot by a pro-life weekly newspaper publisher, James Holman of San Diego, who funded the signature-gathering to qualify it but assumed the campaign would take care of itself. There is, however, an opposition campaign, featuring an excellent ad from Planned Parenthood (tagline: "I'm voting no on Proposition 75 because our daughter's safety comes first.")
There are Schwarzenegger ads for his various propositions that are quite good. But some are pedestrian. In contrast, the "No on 73" ad by the pro-choice forces is true Hollywood professional. And there is no "Yes on 73" campaign, only pro-life groups and churches working at a grassroots level and that's hard for a low-visibility ballot measure. Even so, a ballot proposition on parental notification ordinarily would win.
If Prop 73 loses, such a loss previously viewed as a near-impossible prospect, Schwarzenegger forces may claim that such a loss proves an aberrant turnout that, in turn, explains their wholesale wipe-out. But the better explanation is that they brought all this on themselves; that is, their prospects were consumed by a generic "no" vote on everything; in other words: a largely foreseeable and monumental repudiation of a special election that never had to happen.
So, an unheard-of defeat of parental notification? We'll know soon.
Arnold Steinberg is a political strategist and analyst. He has written textbooks on politics and media.