Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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About Arnold’s Poll Numbers . . .

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The Governor takes it on the chin in the latest Field Poll

We’ll see if the world really does come to an end now that the House has voted on Obamacare (I’m being sarcastic; Republicans need to cool it with the “Armageddon” talk — they were outmuscled in a party-line vote, plain and simple; they’ll have their revenge in November).

Meanwhile, back here in California, there’s the matter of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s shrinking popularity.

The latest Field Poll has the Governator’s approval rating at a new low — 23%. That puts him in a statistical dead heat with the man he replaced in the 2003 recall election, Gray Davis, who hit 22% before he was jettisoned.

The easy conclusion is Arnold has failed — abysmally. His numbers have nearly reversed over the past 5-1/2 years — from a 65% approve, 22% disapprove in September 2004 to the current 23% approve, 78% disapprove.

And it’s across-the-board condemnation, be it by race (only 27% approval among white voters), gender (20% approval among women), age (both 18-39 and 40-64 voters give him a 72% disapprove), or geography (a mere 18% approval in his backyard Los Angeles County).

But let’s look at the bigger picture . . .

 . . . And perhaps cut Arnold some slack.

This is a governor of a state which four-fifths of the electorate believes is on the wrong track.

This is the governor of a state whose Legislature has a record-bad 13% approval rating (forget about the education “race to the top” — in California the real competition is the race to the bottom between the Legislature and Congress).

This is a governor mired in a terrible economy that, at best, shows modest signs of life.

So, given the hand dealt to him, is it realistic to expect Schwarzenegger’s numbers to be going anywhere but down?

I’m biased because I spent five years in Sacramento with a governor who was never overwhelmingly loved or reviled, according to Field’s finding (Pete Wilson’s best approval rating was 52%; his worst disapproval was 33%). And all he did was weather the worst economic mess since the Great Depression. So I don’t necessarily link approval ratings with the job the man is doing.

My advice to the Governor’s Office: look past the polls and focus on the time left in office.

Sure, Arnold’s made mistakes during his time in office. Candidates from both parties will remind us of that this fall. So will pointy-headed pundits like myself.

But Arnold also has suffered from bad timing: namely, the nature of these times.

Politicians are held in low contempt (just check the latest California numbers for the guy who promised hope and change).

But it’s just not politicians who are on the down slope. They’re just one very public facet of a greater age of disappointment and uncertainty in America’s institutions (government, business, religion, the nuclear family).

Once upon a time, Arnold Schwarzenegger rode high above the political establishment. Then, he made a choice to become part of the system in Sacramento — more politician, less celebrity. Ever since, his popularity has suffered.

Arnold can’t undo the past. He doesn’t have enough time to plan for the future.

But he can fathom the present — and try not to let the downward numbers get him down.


Written by Bill Whalen

March 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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