Skip to comments.CA: Governor adds GOP savvy for re-election (Maria recruited and interviewed candidates)
Posted on 02/20/2006 9:04:46 AM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO As if to sweep away the last remnants of his 2005 special election shellacking, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is following the purge of his senior government staff with a housecleaning in his political operation to launch his re-election campaign this year.
But unlike his eclectic critics would say schizophrenic Capitol staff, where the dominant figure is a longtime Democratic activist, senior members of the Republican governor's new campaign team have solid Republican pedigrees.
Out is senior strategist Mike Murphy, who directed the campaign for Schwarzenegger's reform agenda, which was defeated in November.
And Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's chief spokesman since the 2003 recall election, has been shifted to the state Republican Party.
In are Steve Schmidt and Matthew Dowd, who played integral roles in President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. A third Bush-Cheney operative, Katie Levinson, arrived last week as the campaign's new communications director.
First lady Maria Shriver, whose displeasure with the special election was acknowledged by Schwarzenegger afterward, was the driving force in recruiting and interviewing candidates for the campaign team, participants say.
They are highly regarded for their savvy and skill but have limited experience with California politics.
Veteran Republican strategist Ken Khachigian, who was publicly critical of the special election campaign, likes what he sees.
I think Schmidt is a very good choice, he said. He's very capable. He brings to the table a lot of what Arnold needs, which is discipline and making the trains run on time.
Schmidt promises that the hallmark of the '06 model of Team Arnold will be focus and discipline qualities notably lacking in the '05 model. Last year's team featured competing power centers and a chief political adviser, Murphy, who was juggling major out-of-state projects and did not fully engage in the drive to pass Schwarzenegger's four ballot initiatives until the fall.
Schwarzenegger infuriated conservatives in December with the appointment of chief of staff Susan Kennedy, a Democrat who was cabinet secretary to former Gov. Gray Davis, whom Schwarzenegger replaced in the 2003 recall election.
Like Schmidt, Kennedy is being counted upon to bring order to a staff where dissension was exacerbated by Schwarzenegger's freewheeling style and his political mix-and-match approach to appointments.
By nature, Kennedy and Schmidt are both the type of people who administer with a very strong hand, said Republican political consultant Dan Schnur. But the most important thing is for Schwarzenegger himself to vest them with that authority.
In a state where recent governors Davis and Republicans Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian were surrounded by cohesive teams that had been together for a long time, such a sweeping election-year purge is highly unusual and not without risk.
I think he has real managers running the show on both sides of the shop, said Barbara O'Connor, director of the the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State University. The danger is you have to know the people and the events and starting a new team this late, even if they are a wonderful team, is hard.
Dowd, an Austin, Texas, political strategist and pollster, supervised polling and message development for Bush's re-election. A former Democrat, Dowd switched parties when he worked for Bush's 1998 re-election campaign as governor of Texas.
Nobody has a better understanding of how people think than Matthew Dowd, said Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who was the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign manager.
Schmidt, noted for his take-no-prisoners style, supervised the rapid-response operation that monitored Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry's every utterance and disseminated rebuttals within minutes.
More recently, as a member of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff, Schmidt performed a similar role for the confirmation battles over John Roberts and Samuel Alito, both confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Mehlman noted that presidential re-election campaigns can be sluggish because of the competing demands of the campaign, the White House and Cabinet agencies.
He took the tortoise and made it run quicker than the hare, Mehlman said of Schmidt. It was every day of getting ahead of John Kerry in the news cycle.
Dowd has not worked in California since 1992, when he organized the coordinated campaign that integrated Bill Clinton's presidential campaign with local Democratic operations across the state.
Schmidt was a self-described itinerant campaign worker when he landed in California in the late 1990s to work for then-state Sen. Tim Leslie, who was running for lieutenant governor. He then became press secretary for Matt Fong's unsuccessful 1998 U.S. Senate campaign.
Officials of the Democratic gubernatorial campaigns of state Treasurer Phil Angelides and Controller Steve Westly welcomed the team to California in predictably partisan fashion.
It is curious to me why you would bring into California two guys who have been back there in D.C. sitting on (senior Bush adviser) Karl Rove's lap for five years, said Westly strategist Garry South. Rove might be a brilliant national strategist, but he's been an absolute ignoramus when it comes to dealing with California.
Angelides campaign adviser Bob Mulholland was equally caustic.
I think this team is as good as Dick Cheney's shooting skills, Mulholland said. This is a recycled Bush-Cheney political team that represents the policies that the vast majority of Californians are opposed to, whether it's Supreme Court nominees, whether it's the environment, whether it's education. I think it's foolish of Schwarzenegger to have brought in Bush-Cheney's campaign team.
There is plenty of time for rapid response, but for now, Schmidt is content to let such broadsides go by.
All elections are about choice and the voters are going to have a pretty clear choice in this election, he said. People in this state are going to respond to Governor Schwarzenegger's vision for the future, his optimism and his remarkable record of accomplishment.
Just win, Baby! Don't sweat the details!
Just a semantic nitpick here: schizophrenia has nothing to do with split or multiple personalities, as implied above. It's a physical disease of the brain that results (in the paranoid and grandiose forms) in aural and/or visual hallucinations accompanied by delusions.
It's a tragic illness, but not related to multiple personality disorder.
You can say that again. Rove stepped into California to straighten out the Republican party, and instead he has pretty well succeeded in killing it. His idea of what's good for California includes nothing but losers: Richard Riordan, Gerald Parsky, Arnold Schwartzenneger.
You can't just keep walking all over the locals unless you succeed pretty quickly in building a successful organization. I would hardly describe what has been going on in California as anything but extremely dysfunctional. By the time they are through, they will have managed to make Gray Davis look good.
Dowd... A former Democrat, Dowd switched parties when he worked for Bush's 1998 re-election campaign as governor of Texas.
Solid Republican pedigree? He worked on the Clinton campaign under the direction of Susan Kennedy!
Regardless of who he puts on his campaign, I'd rather see more real "Republican pedigrees" working on his staff.
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