Political strategist Garry South must sense doom for Gray Davis. He is ditching the effort to defend Davis against a recall. The Los Angeles Times reported last Friday that he "will take no formal role in fighting the recall effort." As he explained to the Times, "I've got other things going on in my life."
South, reports the Times, is off to work for presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman as a senior campaign adviser. Isn't that an even more hopeless task than defending Davis? Apparently South doesn't think so. Which is telling. If South considers Lieberman's presidential run less doomed than Davis's chances of surviving a recall, Davis should really begin to panic.
Panic is certainly warranted. Tuesday's numbers at Davis Recall.com suggest that the question isn't whether Davis will face a recall but when. The site reports 535,374 signatures out of 898,157 petitions necessary for a recall.
Taxpayers Against the Recall -- the phony group Davis had to scramble to form -- looks pretty rag-tag and desperate. The group consists not of grass-roots taxpayers but of union hacks who have long supped at the tax trough. Notice that Steve Smith, California's labor secretary, has taken a "leave of absence." Why? Because Davis needs him free to dial up friends in organized labor to kill the recall drive.
You can also tell that Davis is in a serious pinch because militant abortion activists are sending out all-hands-on-deck signals. They have decided to turn Darrell Issa, the Republican congressman financing the recall drive, into Randall Terry. The Contra Costa Times reports that demonstrations are scheduled "in Beverly Hills, San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco, where abortion rights supporters plan to draw attention to the congressman's opposition to abortion. 'Basically, the message they're going to be sending tomorrow is Darrell Issa shouldn't be allowed to recall a woman's right to choose,' said Carroll Wills, spokesman for Taxpayers Against the Recall."
The radical feminists who rallied to Bill Clinton during his impeachment are now called to do their duty for Davis. They probably don't want to pick up their placards for such a dud, but he has been loyal to them. He used to show up at abortion clinics to cheer them on. He is their champion -- at least for now. Should the recall qualify, these Davis loyalists may prove disloyal. Say Dianne Feinstein throws her name into the hat. Will the feminists bolt on Davis? Garry South won't even be around to kick them back into line.
Maybe the Morongo Band of Mission Indians will stick by Davis's side. Davis recently toasted them for launching a new casino in Southern California. Reporters asked Davis why he showed up for the casino ceremonies. Was he trying to shore up support during the recall drive? "I'm not here to talk about the recall effort," Davis was quoted as saying. "I believe credit should be given where credit is due. This is a major economic success story for the Morongo Band and the Inland Empire."
(Were Bill Bennett a member of the Morongo Band of Mission Hands, he would be credited with creating new jobs and financing the education of children. A shameless Indian Gaming ad now running in California touts the educational and civic benefits that accrue from gaming revenues. So according to California liberals, many of the same ones shocked at Bennett, Californians aren't gambling enough. We are supposed to pull over at Indian gaming dens and play the slot machines so that children can have more after-school programs.)
Meanwhile, California Republicans face problems of their own. Will candidates vying to replace Davis cancel each other out? Robert Novak reports that Richard Riordan may join the fray: "Riordan has asked for White House help in clearing out the rest of the Republicans. Since that is patently impossible, he may run as an independent." And then there is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won't make a decision on running, his spokesmen say, until after the July release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
The only sure-fire winner from the recall are political journalists, who will get to feast on its comic mishaps.