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Non-Partisan Political Consultant Discusses The California Governor’s Race

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to reporters outside his off...

Photo by Max Whittaker / Getty Images

Above: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to reporters outside his office July 22, 2009 in Sacramento, California. Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders reached a budget deal Monday to close California's $26 billion budget gap.


The California governor's race is now a little less crowded. We're joined on Morning Edition of nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

The California governor's race is now a little less crowded. Republican Tom Campbell pulled out to run for the U.S. Senate seat. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Why did Campbell give up his bid for governor, Leo?

LEO MCELROY: Money, money, and money, in short terms. He was doing pretty well in the polls. He was pretty competitive, running consistently second behind Meg Whitman, and ahead of Steve Poisner. But these are people who are throwing in amounts in the neighborhood of $20 million each, from their own fortune into the race, and I think looking at those numbers was just really discouraging for him. So he's jumped into the race for Senate, where there's only one millionaire in the race, instead of two. It's likely to make life more complicated in that race, too.

ALAN RAY: Well, that's a big of a bummer, because Tom Campbell's actually a pretty nice guy. Do you think he kind of just realized he was too moderate to be the Republican candidate?

MCELROY: I think that was a big part of it. I think the concern is that the Republican party has drifted so far to the right in its positions, particularly in the primary election, where the party's most conservative and faithful are the ones to vote. It made it pretty unlikely that a guy with moderate positions like Tom Campbell could win a primary. Whether it's any more likely that he's going to do well in the Senate primary is another question. I'm not sure what it is that gives him hope that he could do better in that race.

DWANE BROWN: Well, it's interesting because moderates have won in the past in California, we're talking about Pete Wilson and the present Governor Schwarzenegger. Why do you think a staunch conservative like Chuck DeVore could get the nomination?

MCELROY: Because of the face that Carly Fiorina, the other, third candidate in the Senate primary, is seen as a moderate. And if you've got Campbell and Carly Fiorina both splitting the moderate votes, even if there were more moderates voting than conservatives, which is not necessarily a proven fact, it leaves only one conservative there to claim the party faithful, and Chuck DeVore, who is relatively unknown in California, if you went out on the street and took a poll of people and said 'Who's Chuck DeVore?' they would look at you like you were crazy. DeVore may win this thing just because he is the only true conservative out of the three in the view of many of the Republican voters, and they're the ones who are making up the decision.

RAY: Now does the Campbell drop-out benefit Jerry Brown?

MCELROY: It certainly does. It really leaves the Republican race for governor between two people who now are free to direct all of their fire at each other. It makes it clear it's a mano-a-mano contest, and so they can beat each other up while Jerry Brown sits there smiling, and says 'Go to it, fellas, go to it.' It leaves him a relatively uncontested path to the general election, and probably will be facing a badly bruised Republican in that contest.

BROWN: Well, before we let you go, Leo, why do you expect the governor's latest budget plan to be drastically altered by the legislature?

MCELROY: I think the governor's latest budget plan has, in the first place, about as little chance of anything happening before June as of Tom Campbell going back in to the governor race and winning the primary. You have a couple of things going on, one you have a lot of cash right now in California, enough to see us through. We may be dead broke by July, but we've got enough to get us there. And so legislators have no motive to cast moderating votes in the budget negotiations up until that time. They can get by by just holding a strong party line, the Democrats no cuts, raise taxes, the Republicans don't raise taxes, make cuts, and anybody who strays from that party line is likely to run into problems in their party primary, which is the only real challenge most legislators have in California.

RAY: A conversation with nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

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