Arnold Schwarzenegger’s closing TV spot of the 2003 recall campaign.
With tracking polls holding steady, talk is turning to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s prospective victory margin and to down ballot races and propositions, where several remain tight. Schwarzenegger is closing out his 2006 campaign with a TV ad launched last Friday. Like his closer in the 2003 recall campaign, it is positive and uplifting. But the two ads, shown above and below, reflect very different circumstances.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s closing TV spot of the 2006 re-election campaign.
Before comparing Schwarzenegger’s re-election closer with his first election closer, there have been down ballot developments, in the closely fought races for lieutenant governor and state insurance commissioner.
Democratic sources acknowledge that John Garamendi, after taking a 10-point lead in public polling over Republican Tom McClintock in their race for lieutenant governor, had fallen a little behind in private polling. But now they say that, although the race is still a statistical dead heat, Garamendi is slowly moving up.
If there were more resources behind Garamendi, both in his official campaign and in party and labor independent expenditures on his behalf, it might be happening more quickly. But Insurance Commissioner Garamendi has not been a big fundraiser, and party and labor efforts until recently have focused on trying to jump start the campaign of trailing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides.
Democrats had entertained hopes that an earlier ad depicting McClintock, the state’s most prominent conservative politician, as being outside California’s mainstream with his positions on social and environmental issues might put him away. It did not. Nevertheless, they are feeling a bit better with the overall effort kicking into gear. Republicans say McClintock has a slight lead, within the margin of polling error.
In more unalloyed news for Republicans, moderate Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Poizner, running what has been a close race for state insurance commissioner against Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, yesterday picked up the endorsement of California’s leading Spanish language newspaper, La Opinion.
Since Bustamante is one of America’s highest ranking Latino elected officials, that’s striking. However, he has been damaged goods since the recall, when as the replacement Democratic nominee he was crushed by Schwarzenegger after improperly moving millions in Indian casino tribe donations into his campaign. In this race, he has compounded matters by at first raising money from the insurance companies he would regulate, then saying he would give it back (after it turned out not to be a lot), and running TV ads emphasizing his dramatic weight loss.
Speaking of drama, Schwarzenegger’s closing TV ad for the re-election campaign is less dramatic than his closing TV ad for the recall campaign.
It’s called “33.” That’s the current number of newspapers that have endorsed him over trailing Democratic candidate Phil Angelides. As the names of endorsing newspapers crawl across the bottom of the screen and the announcer reads some of the laudatory things written about the former action superstar as governor, pull quotes from the endorsements are superimposed on the screen over a spectacular montage of California scenes. With appropriate music, of course, which you’ve heard throughout the fine ad campaign produced for Schwarzenegger. The announcer manages to work in the word “bipartisan” twice in only 30 seconds.
It’s a very effective ad, which seeks to soothe and reassure as it inspires. Media consultant Fred Davis put it together with campaign manager Steve Schmidt, chief strategist Matthew Dowd, and senior strategist Sarah Simmons.
The former Mr. Universe has pulled off the biggest sweep of newspaper endorsements for California governor in my lifetime. Among well-known newspapers, Angelides has only two endorsements. La Opinion, the Spanish language newspaper in Los Angeles, which could hardly endorse Schwarzenegger given his continued opposition to drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the most left-wing weekly newspaper in the state. Angelides had also been blitzed in the battle for newspaper endorsements by his narrowly defeated primary rival, ex-eBay honcho-turned state Controller Steve Westly, winning only the latter mentioned paper and two dailies, his hometown Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times, which went at Schwarzenegger hammer and tong in the recall campaign. Schwarzenegger, of course, won the endorsements of those two dailies for the general election.
The ad style was very different in the recall campaign. The biggest media outlet in the state, the Los Angeles Times, was thoroughly opposed to the action movie superstar’s candidacy. And so was most of the California political establishment. Schwarzenegger was viewed as an interloper (Times headlines referred to him as “Actor”), the recall a “threat to democracy” (many more people participated in it than in the regular election).
The campaign itself was quite tumultuous. Schwarzenegger, aided by a message advisory memo from media consultant Don Sipple sent over the night before, had shocked most of the world with his candidacy, announced at a taping of the Tonight Show.
Originally intending to run in 2006, Schwarzenegger parachuted into the race just two months before the recall election, fresh, if you will, from the global intricacies of launching the third installment of his Terminator movie franchise. His fortunes waxed, waned, and waxed again as he hurriedly brought himself up to speed on state issues, acted as ringmaster with an international media circus, fought complex political crosscurrents, and dealt with sensational personal attacks.
His closing TV ad, devised by Sipple and narrated by action movie figure and distinguished character actor Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers and Highlander, as well as Carnivale and Shawshank Redemption, and a congressman’s son and St. Alban’s grad, to boot), reflected this tumult.
Where the current Team Arnold presents Schwarzenegger as a steady, somewhat visionary figure, reassuring by virtue of all those newspaper endorsements (amidst the beautiful montage of California scenes, Schwarzenegger himself appears only briefly at the end), the recall spot, entitled “Momentum,” focuses almost entirely on Schwarzenegger.
In contrast to this election’s closer, the 2003 closer presents Schwarzenegger as a dynamic rather than reassuring figure, almost as a movement leader. Indeed, Schwarzenegger had become the face of the recall, which would ultimately succeed or fail on his appeal.
Where this year, Schwarzenegger has had a big lead for months (having seized it with a decisive series of moves after the June primary), and is running to hold onto that lead, in 2003, Schwarzenegger, who had been locked in a close race prior to the only debate he participated in, was still driving for a big win.
Which he got, in landslide fashion. The recall of Governor Gray Davis passed with an 11-point margin of victory and on the multi-candidate replacement ballot, Schwarzenegger walloped replacement Democratic nominee Cruz Bustamante, the lieutenant governor, by a 17-point margin.
This year, although Schwarzenegger has been carrying a lead roughly the same as his 2003 margin of victory, most observers expect Angelides to at last pick up some of the Democratic vote which has eluded him for months, reducing the size of a Schwarzenegger landslide.