Arnold Schwarzenegger,  California,  Election 2006,  Politics

Arnold Schwarzenegger Watch: New Politically Diverse Campaign Team Set for Governor’s Reelection

Susan Kennedy is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff.

Los Angeles Times: Opposites Attract on Team Arnold

Though politically diverse, the governor’s new aides share one aim: their boss’ reelection.

Susan Kennedy is a former abortion rights activist and protege of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Steve Schmidt is a political strategist who helped put Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. on the Supreme Court over the protest of Democrats, including Feinstein, who feared he would outlaw abortion.

But Democrat Kennedy, the governor’s new chief of staff, and Republican Schmidt, his freshly arrived campaign manager, say they are airtight on one thing: Whatever their philosophical differences, Schmidt said, “We’re focused on what we both have in common, which is reelecting” Schwarzenegger.

And this is what the conservatives of the California Republican Party must decide: Do they want Arnold reelected or NOT?

Will a reelected Arnold Schwarzenegger be better for California than either Phil Angelides or Steve Westly?

The top tier of Schwarzenegger advisors also includes Matthew Dowd, who helped engineer George W. Bush’s two presidential wins, and Democrat Daniel Zingale, a longtime gay rights advocate and the chief of staff to First Lady Maria Shriver.

While Schwarzenegger, a Republican, reached out to hire Kennedy, it is Shriver, a Democrat, who helped lure Schmidt, Dowd and Adam Mendelsohn, the governor’s new communications chief, to Sacramento. Mendelsohn is another Republican with close ties to the Bush White House.

And Maria Shriver, the First Lady of California’s involvement:

Ever since Schwarzenegger’s drubbing in the November special election — which Shriver opposed — she has been heavily involved in his reelection effort, according to inside accounts. She has canvassed friends in the media and national political circles in search of political talent, and sat in on some conference calls among his new strategists.

“She is in charge of the rescue committee,” said one Schwarzenegger advisor, referring to the governor’s sagging political fortunes. “Maria has a number of I-told-you-so chits from last year that she is cashing in.”

Shriver’s direction has been to drive the Governor toward the independent California voter. Schwarzenegger has never been a conservative but neither has he embraced the very liberal left wing agenda of the California Democrat controlled legislature.

Dan Walters has in today’s Sacramento Bee a logistical and demographic rationale for Shriver’s actions.

California’s 15.8 million registered voters now divide themselves into 6.7 million Democrats (42.68 percent), 5.9 million Republicans (34.68 percent), 2.9 million independents (18.8 percent) and a smattering of minor party adherents.

Governor Schwarzenegger already captures the majority of Republican voters. They have NO place to go but stay home and allow a liberal Angelides win. The votes Arnold MUST win are the independent voters – all 2.9 million of them.

Independents may be frozen out of legislative and congressional elections, but they dominate statewide contests. The narrowing of the registration gap between the two major parties means that both have similarly sized bases of loyal voters, giving the independents, now nearly 20 percent of likely voters, the final word. They have leaned Democratic on social issues such as abortion and gun control over the last decade. But Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s win in 2003, as well as the rejection of his ballot measures in 2005, demonstrate that independents are not to be taken for granted by either party. His decline in popularity is largely explained by the defection of independents. As he tries to rebuild his centrist image, he’s trying to regain traction among moderate independents – which also explains why the Republican right has become somewhat antagonistic.

Will a politically diverse professional reelection team be the recipe for success for Governor Schwarzenegger’s reelection?

Stay tuned………

Matthew Dowd

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