Skip to comments.CA: Silent minority: After election, Shriver's credibility enhanced
Posted on 12/02/2005 10:06:49 AM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO California first lady Maria Shriver may be the only top political adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to emerge from the special election with her popularity and credibility enhanced.
During his "year of reform," Schwarzenegger and his campaign advisers made wildly optimistic claims of victory and inaccurate assessments of the popularity of his four ballot measures.
Shriver never spoke about his initiatives.
Now, that conspicuous silence may become her greatest asset, paving the way for her to play an influential role in Schwarzenegger's effort to create and communicate a more bipartisan approach to governing as he runs for re-election next year.
After voters shot down all his measures on the Nov. 8 ballot, the Republican governor has pledged to "work hard to get people back and show them I am not to the right or left."
Shriver's absence from the special election campaign will make any future campaigns she joins more credible, said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University Sacramento.
"People believe she doesn't speak unless she believes what she's saying," O'Connor said. "If there's an agenda and it meets voters needs, she'll be a great asset in selling that."
The decision to remain silent on her husband's special election agenda, which focused on conservative causes such as cutting state spending and curbing the political influence of public employee unions, maintains her credibility as a Democrat.
Shriver, a broadcast journalist, is part of the famous Kennedy clan. Her father, Sargent Shriver, ran for vice president in 1972 on the Democratic ticket with George McGovern.
Many political analysts say Shriver's Democratic heritage helped persuade some Democratic and independent voters during the 2003 recall campaign that Schwarzenegger was a bipartisan choice for governor.
That image has suffered during the "year of reform." As he battled educators, nurses, firefighters and trumpeted conservative causes, Schwarzenegger's popularity declined sharply.
In February, 56 percent of voters were inclined to re-elect him, according to the nonpartisan Field Poll. In October, just 36 percent favored his re-election, with only 18 percent of Democrats inclined to vote for him in 2006.
Schwarzenegger needs to win back some of those Democrats and independents if he hopes to win re-election next year.
"Maria reinforces the centrist half of his political persona, almost as well as anyone," said Republican consultant Dan Schnur. "It's not a matter of her or anyone else moving him to the center, but of helping him highlight his moderate agenda."
Two days after the Nov. 8 debacle, Schwarzenegger boosted Shriver's reputation as an independent thinker by saying she had cautioned against calling a special election.
"I should have also listened to my wife, who said to me, 'Don't do this,' " Schwarzenegger said at a Sacramento news conference.
Such politically astute advice is likely to increase her influence with the governor.
"Like most couples, they do share their ideas," said Shriver's new chief of staff, Daniel Zingale. "They talk about everything in the privacy of their home."
She hired Zingale in October, tapping the veteran Democrat, who was a key adviser to Gov. Gray Davis, to be her top aide. He replaces Donna Lucas, a prominent Republican public relations specialist.
Shriver also played a role in Schwarzenegger's unusual move to hire Susan Kennedy, a top Democrat and former key aide to Davis, to be his chief of staff. Kennedy replaces Republican Patricia Clarey.
"This is a sign that Maria said, 'You've got to put someone in charge,' " said political analyst Tony Quinn. "This is a sign that she's going to play a bigger role in the administration."
Schwarzenegger said at a news conference that Shriver was a strong supporter of hiring Kennedy. "She loves it," he said.
Yesterday, the governor sought to counter speculation that his wife engineered the appointment of his new chief of staff, saying that Shriver and Kennedy met for the first time only recently. Kennedy is not related to the Kennedy political clan.
Schwarzenegger called the Roger Hedgecock show on San Diego radio station KOGO in an effort to reassure conservatives alarmed about the appointment.
He also dismissed concerns from Republicans that his wife will wield excessive influence on his administration, saying that people have been suggesting that since he entered the race for governor in the 2003 recall campaign.
"People were concerned when I ran for governor," he said. "They said to me, 'You know, I would vote for you, but I'm really worried about one thing and that is, you know, you are married to a Democrat. I mean, I know Maria wants to take over and I know she will have an influence on you and she will make decisions. I'm concerned about that.' "
He described the relationship he and his wife have when it comes to gubernatorial issues. "Maria and I, we have worked together for the last two years. We debate over issues, but in the end, I make up my mind and I make the decision. That's just the way it is. I love to get input from both sides."
As first lady, Shriver has been busying carrying out the traditional ceremonial duties, but she's also expanding the role.
She is planning a conference in Los Angeles in February to examine ways to reduce poverty, Zingale said. Former Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, is scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers.
Shriver also is selecting a director for the California Service Corps, which directs grants for organizations providing community service, such as mentoring at-risk youth and preventing domestic violence.
Zingale said his decision to work for Shriver won the blessing of his former boss, Davis, who was kicked out of office and replaced by Schwarzenegger in the recall.
"He's very fond of Maria," Zingale said. "He's very earnest about wanting state government to succeed."
During her two years as first lady, Shriver, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has walked a fine line. She has supported her husband and some of his policies while maintaining a separate identity.
Shriver and their four children continue to live in Brentwood. The governor commutes between Brentwood and the Hyatt Regency Hotel across from the Capitol, where he stays a few nights a week while carrying out his duties as governor.
In 2004, Shriver and the children attended the Democratic National Convention in Boston to be on hand for ceremonies honoring her Kennedy relatives. Later, she traveled to New York City to the Republican National Convention to attend her husband's prime-time speech.
Shriver, 50, largely put her career as a broadcast journalist on hold when Schwarzenegger set his sights on the governor's office.
During the recall campaign, her support for Schwarzenegger helped him overcome accusations that he had groped women on movie sets.
"She was very effective. People believed her when she said he was a good husband and father," O'Connor said. "That put the kibosh on the womanizing charges."
However, polls suggest that a gender gap has opened up regarding Schwarzenegger.
The Field Poll from October showed that 61 percent of female voters opposed a second term for the governor, while just 29 percent favored his re-election. Men were evenly divided in their opinion about Schwarzenegger.
"He's massively lost women," said Garry South, a Democratic consultant working for state Controller Steve Westly, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
South contends that women are tired of Schwarzenegger's antics. "The name-calling, the brow-beating hasn't played well with women," he said. "There's a certain macho adolescent aspect to this guy that's turning people off."
South believes that higher-profile support from Shriver won't help as much this time because voters are more familiar with Schwarzenegger's governing style than they were during the recall.
For example, he said, women were outraged at a remark Schwarzenegger made in July when he ended a deal with two muscle magazines that could have paid him up to $8 million.
Schwarzenegger told reporters that he had no problem giving up the money, but that his wife "was worried that means less diamonds or something like that."
Yet O'Connor thinks voters could forgive Schwarzenegger for making such comments and for calling the special election if he can come up with plans they favor. Shriver, she said, could be a great asset in selling those plans.
"She has a set of issues that could help create his new image," O'Connor said.
Pardon me while I puke.
I wonder which way she's leaning on "Tookie"?
The word that comes to mind is "sleeper". Or maybe "mole". Now that Arnie has his first big setback, in comes the 'rescue' team which all happen to be Gray Davis' people. And this is supposed to help? Well, at least the other western states will continue to benefit from the flight of Republicans from the formerly Golden State while it continues to implode.
Oh, that is so beneath you. ;-)
----She better open it long enough to tell that hubby of hers to terminate Tookie .
I did not realize I was voting for Maria.
Let's git some plottin and schemin goin on this here website, shall we???
Does that mean we have to turn our sharp pointy sticks for nerf pitchFoRks? ;-)
I am probably going to do something I normally don't do, cherry pick my candidates and issues and vote only on certain items and races.
Well aren't we gonna seek out some prospects and then try to get some moneyed people who are dumb enough to let us talk them into investing in the best of those prospects and get a campaign started? Don't worry, I don't expect either of us to stick around to see how it ends up, cause we might have to take some blame, or worse!!!
About the only folks I see that interest me much are conservatives, Tom McC and Ray Haynes and maybe Jim Gilchrist.
Whoever the CA GOP ends up endorsing or putting up outside of this will probably get a pass from me.