Two years ago, when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock were the leading Republican candidates for governor in the nationally watched recall election, the thought of the two of them teaming up was almost inconceivable. Schwarzenegger took liberal stands on social issues such as abortion, while stalwart conservative McClintock made no secret of his strong pro-life views and other conservative social positions. While Schwarzenegger was vague about what he would do to solve a budget crisis that had put California close to insolvency, Ventura County lawmaker McClintock displayed his passion for budget details and spelled out just where he would make cuts to avoid any tax increase. Schwarzenegger ducked any tough talk about illegal immigration, while McClintock called for the state to re-start the Davis-halted court battle over the constitutionality of Proposition 187 — the statewide measure to deny benefits to illegal immigrants that was enacted resoundingly in 1994 but was later struck down in federal courts.
What seemed inconceivable in ’03 is happening in ’06. Although the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately in California, Schwarzenegger has signaled that he wants the 51-year-old McClintock as his unofficial running mate. The legislator, perhaps the best-known conservative in the Golden State after two close races for state comptroller and the recall election for governor in ’03, is now assured of nomination for the second spot in the June primary. "Arnold and Tom. Victory ’06" posters that plastered the convention appeared to close the deal.
"I don’t agree with my wife on absolutely everything, but I still love her," McClintock told an overflow luncheon crowd at the convention, "I don’t agree with the governor on absolutely everything, but I still support him."
Schwarzenegger’s alliance with the conservative McClintock is clearly the most compelling reason for conservatives to forgive his apostasies and work for his re-election. As San Luis Obispo County Assessor and longtime conservative activist Tom Bordonaro told me: "This is what the ‘big tent is all about — the left and the right of the party coming together." Former Placer County Party Chairman Ken Campbell predicted that the party would be "fired up to elect the Schwarzenegger-McClintock ticket. Conservatives will be brought back into the party as they see a 2010 with Tom McClintock well-positioned to be elected governor."