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Postcards from the End

Some thoughts on recall math, Mary Carey, and tonight's bellwether county.

7:50 AM, Oct 7, 2003 • By BILL WHALEN
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IT'S VOTING TIME IN CALIFORNIA. While you wait for the results, some postcards from the edge of recall:

Pay to Play to the End. Governor Gray Davis marked the final day of campaigning with a big rally in downtown San Francisco. He did the same event last November, at the end of his reelection effort. A year ago, Davis operatives had to pay the local homeless $50 a head to come out to the rally, to build up the crowd (no word yet if the Davis team was handing out cash this time around). Davis did draw a large crowd of firefighters at his rally. However, many of them were from out of state, attending a convention. It's only fitting: the firefighters' unions heavily underwrote his anti-recall effort.

How Many I's in Yentl? Either Davis pulls off the last-minute miracle, or the results confirm what the polls suggest: he's a goner, and the first American governor to be recalled since the 1920s. Such was his luck that the star-crossed Davis even had a tough time getting the stars to align properly. Here's what Barbra Streisand wrote on her website: "Regardless of what you think about Grey [sic] Davis, we should all be able to agree that we must now stop this attempted hijacking of the democratic process." That's "Gray," Babs: no "e."

Monday's "Dumb and Dumber" Moment: Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante was interviewed on an East Los Angeles street corner by MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield, she of the titanium specs. Banfield suggested that Bustamante was a "celebrity" in his own right within California's Latino community. To the end, the lieutenant governor insisted he had the votes to win. Then he was off to catch a Southwest shuttle--the sign of a candidate who's a populist, and penniless (In case you're curious, Banfield's hair appears to have gone from pre-9/11 blonde and then an Afghan black to a recall mousy brown.)

That's a Dozen Large Pizzas--and a Side of Burn Bags. If recall passes and Arnold Schwarzenegger wins, watch for the governor's office to start right away on Plan B. Davis has a meeting with his cabinet tentatively set for Wednesday afternoon, followed by a conference call with second-tier agency directors. His aides reportedly have requested boxes from the state archives, and have inquired as to the availability of paper shredders. Surely there's money left over in the campaign kitty for a big magnet to run over the computer hard drives. Or they could challenge the results in court. But no Democrat would do that, right?

Beware the Next Hatch Act. Earlier this summer, Utah senator Orrin Hatch introduced a joint resolution that would allow foreign-born residents who've lived in America for at least 20 years to run for president. That was before the Terminator made it a Total Recall. Hatch's opinion: "If Arnold Schwarzenegger turns out to be the greatest governor of California, which I hope he will, if he turns out to be a tremendous leader and he proves to everybody in this country that he's totally dedicated to this country as an American . . . [then] we would be wrong not to give him that opportunity [to run for president]."

Blonding-in with the Crowd. Porn star Mary Carey aired her one and only TV ad last night, during Jay Leno's broadcast and only in the Los Angeles market. She asked viewers for their vote, then emerged from her red dress in her trademark red, white & blue bikini. If you're easily bored with talking heads, you can always tune in tonight to the Game Show Network's "Who Wants To Be Governor of California--The Debating Game," where Carey's one of the finalists.

SOME THOUGHTS ON TODAY'S VOTE:

Davis could win, but it's more difficult than the media would have you to believe. Let's suppose turnout is as strong as expected--in the neighborhood of 10 million votes. That means Davis needs 50 percent of today's vote, plus one, to win. Right? Wrong. Some 2 million absentee ballots already have been cast--and mailed in before Arnold was hit with the groping and pro-Hitler allegations. If those ballots track with the pre-groping polls, Davis will be lucky to pick up 44 percent of those 2 million-plus votes. That means Davis has to win 52-53 percent of today's walkup to defeat the recall question. No poll has him close to that.