Conservative Support Sustained Arnold

“If this had been a regular Republican primary,” said former California Republican Chairman John McGraw, “of course I would have been for Tom McClintock-all the way and with a big contribution. But this was an unusual one-shot deal-to get either Arnold Schwarzenegger, with whom I agree on some things but certainly not all, or someone like [Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz] Bustamante, with whom I agree on nothing. So that’s why I supported Schwarzenegger, whom I have never met.”

When McGraw was party chairman from 1999-2001, he frequently clashed with GOP moderates who resented his pro-life views. Yet, in the days leading up to California’s October 7 recall election, McGraw joined with some of the same people who had fought his chairmanship to support a candidate who did not share his views on social issues in the interests of removing Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replacing him with a Republican.

Many other California conservatives supported the moderate Schwarzenegger over conservative State Sen. Tom McClintock. Together, the two Republicans took a surprising 62% of the vote.) “Several weeks before the election, 14 other former state party chairmen-including such noted conservatives as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Energy John Herrington and onetime Reagan Lt. Gov. Ed Reinecke-weighed in for Schwarzenegger. (See HUMAN EVENTS, September 29.)

All but a handful of the Republican state legislators backed Schwarzenegger, as did almost every member of the state’s Republican U.S. House delegation, and 54 of the state’s 58 Republican county chairman. According to a Fox News exit poll, 66% of self-described conservatives voted for Schwarzenegger.

So what can conservatives now anticipate from the Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger they were instrumental in electing?

“At his press conference the day after he was elected, he did not back down on opposition to driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and restated he will not raise taxes,” noted former State Party Chairman Shawn Steel. “We’re going to see a lot of conservatives-particularly from the Hoover Institute [at Stanford University]-involved in his administration.”

Any discussion of Schwarzenegger and conservatives inevitably returns to erstwhile opponent McClintock (who, according to aide John Stoos, “was taking a much-deserved rest” and unable to talk to us). Although a number of conservatives-notably longtime Reagan publicist Peter Hannaford-suggested that the new governor name McClintock state finance director, one source close to Schwarzenegger said, “Arnold prizes loyalty above all else” and was unlikely to name someone who wouldn’t abandon the race against him.

But many California conservatives are convinced McClintock has a bright future. “Tom came out a winner and was not a spoiler,” said Steel. “He campaigned with integrity and class and never went below the belt with Schwarzenegger. He was part of the solution by helping to drive more than one million voters to the polls who voted for recalling Davis. I sent my first $1,000 check for Tom for re-election to his Senate seat [next year] this morning and he would be an obvious candidate for lieutenant governor with Arnold in ’06.”

Whatever the future brings for Schwarzenegger, it is obvious that more conservatives than not swallowed their differences with him to support him. That contrasts markedly with the unwillingness of moderates last year to support the gubernatorial campaign of conservative Republican Bill Simon. As veteran pollster-consultant Arnold Steinberg concluded: “Conservative Republicans-elected officials, grass-roots organizations, talk-show hosts-set Arnold up for victory. Without conservatives, Arnold would have lost, bringing the recall down with him. Don’t forget this, and don’t let him forget this.”