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To Be, or Not To Be

What will be the fate of Schwarzenegger's reform agenda in California's special election?

7:30 AM, Nov 7, 2005 • By BILL WHALEN
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A few extra days of drama on the West Coast would be appropriate, as California's election differs from other state's votes. Virginia's gubernatorial race will be read as a referendum on President Bush's ability to drop into a friendly red state and give a last-minute boost to a Republican candidate. New Jersey's gubernatorial contest has devolved into accusations of infidelities, affairs, and abortions.

California's election, on the other hand, offers both the best and worst of modern politics. On the positive side, the initiative process once again is a chance for the electorate to referee disputes that California Republicans and Democrats can't settle.

If Schwarzenegger comes up short on Tuesday, losing a majority or even all of his four initiatives, it may be because the Governator overestimated the public's appetite for reform, and its ability to digest four separate topics at once. Such a rejection will be a second-guesser's delight in terms of Schwarzenegger's judgment, how well he can take a punch, and his political team's ability to reverse his fortunes by the time voters decide on is second term a year from now.

You can safely assume how the media would write that plot: Arnold's downfall, a Shakespearean tragedy.

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