The Blog

Gray Davis Gets Religion

The Democratic governor starts bragging on his faith and saying a few Hail Diannes to get him out of trouble.

1:20 AM, Sep 4, 2003 • By BILL WHALEN
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Eleven years ago, during the Democrats' U.S. Senate primary, Davis ran an ad comparing his rival, Feinstein (then facing a lawsuit for improperly reporting campaign donations), to Leona "Queen of Mean" Helmsley. "Helmsley blames her servants for the felony. Feinstein blames her staff for the lawsuit," the Davis ad said. "Helmsley's in jail. Feinstein wants to be a senator."

Or maybe Feinstein's not entirely over that slap. Try parsing what she says in her anti-recall ads:

The first TV spot (titled "Keep Working"): "I hope you'll vote against this recall. With 135 candidates, someone could win with 15 percent of the vote. Will they be qualified? Where will they stand on the issues? What will the uncertainty do to our economy? This recall is bad for California. The governor deserves the chance to keep working on issues we care about: education, health care, important new privacy legislation. On the recall, just say no. On the recall, just say no."

The second spot (titled "Outcome"): "This governor was reelected just last November. Within three months, this recall effort began. It was started by people who were unhappy with the results of a legitimate election, in which 8 million Californians voted. It's producing uncertainty and instability. It's bad for the economy, bad for jobs and bad for California. That's why I'm voting no. I hope you will, too."

Feinstein's math is squirrelly: 8 million Californians didn't vote last November; the top vote-getter on the second half of the ballot will receive far more than 15 percent. But more notably, she doesn't mention Davis by name. Such is the governor's weakened state: He's reduced to third-person status, making amends with politicians he's insulted and voter's he's ignored.

It's recall's Hail Mary. Gray Davis's hopes rest on a right wing and his prayers.

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.