White House Keeps Hands Off Davis Recall

The White House is taking a hands-off approach to the conservative grassroots recall effort against Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis.

Asked by HUMAN EVENTS about the President’s position on the recall, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said, "The President believes that’s a matter for the people of California."

Pressed about reports that the President and top political adviser Karl Rove are uncomfortable with the recall movement, McClellan said, "I haven’t read any of those reports" and repeated that the question was up to Californians.

The Los Angeles Times, however, cited recall advocates in California who claim that Los Angeles financier Gerald Parsky, Bush’s top political lieutenant in the state, "has subtly discouraged Republicans from backing the effort by stating that his top goal is collecting contributions for the President."

But, at a time when the California Republican Party has strongly endorsed the recall drive and most elected Republicans in the state support it, some Republicans are convinced the White House may be missing the boat.

"Being this coy on what is inarguably the hottest issue in California today won’t work," said veteran GOP strategist Mike Collins, who formerly served as spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "If the White House thinks being coy will play politically with the party activists, they won’t survive out there. Californians have had it with Gray Davis!"

The latest Field Poll shows that registered voters in California favor recalling Davis 54% to 39%. Three recall organizations have submitted 1.6 million signatures, even though only 897,158 certified signatures are required to place the recall on the ballot.

The recall process is producing what California Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim characterizes as "a surge" for his party. The GOP has seen major increases in party registration in San Bernardino, San Diego and Orange counties.

Noting how the issue has energized the conservative grassroots, State GOP Sen. Tom McClintock hailed the recall effort as "the most important issue since [tax ceiling] Proposition 13 [in 1978]."

At least three Republicans are eyeing a gubernatorial race: Bill Simon, who ran against Davis last year; conservative Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who has spent more than $1.2 million of his own fortune to fund the recall-signature-gathering drive; and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is pro-gun control, pro-abortion and for homosexual adoption. Schwarzenegger has the backing of former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson’s old political team.

There is also mounting suspicion that some of Davis’s fellow Democrats may be plotting to abandon him. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for example, said she did not plan to be a candidate for governor and supported Davis. "But that was certainly not a Shermanesque ruling out of a run by any means," noted Bill Whelan of the Hoover Institution, a onetime speechwriter for Pete Wilson. Whelan believes that if Davis’s polling numbers continue to look bad, the 70-year-old Feinstein will place her name on the ballot to replace him.

Democrats within the state’s congressional delegation reportedly discussed the Davis recall last week, sources said, and there was considerable talk of a candidacy by former Rep. Leon Panetta, who served as President Clinton’s chief of staff.