That was quick. An initiative effort by Republican operatives to change California’s electoral college vote in the presidential election is in a state of collapse. It had begun inauspiciously, with under 50% support in the Field Poll, the scorn of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and poor fundraising results.
The initiative drive, if one can call it that, which was first revealed in the Los Angeles Times in July, would have changed the electoral college vote of California — and nowhere else — from the customary winner-take-all to apportioning by winner of congressional district. This would likely give 20 or so additional electoral college votes to the Republican nominee, and probably the White House. Democrats call it an obvious power grab, and Schwarzenegger, as first revealed on NWN, doesn’t like the proposed measure one bit, likening it to a “loser’s mentality.”
Despite having Schwarzenegger’s former political lawyer, Tom Hiltachk, and his fundraising consultant, Marty Wilson, the effort had only raised about $200,000, most of it from a shadowy group seemingly based in Missouri that won’t say where the money came from. Hiltachk quit yesterday and Wilson had already scaled back his involvement.
Democrats reacted with alacrity when the effort emerged in July, bringing on PR consultant Chris Lehane, mobilizing the state and national party apparatuses behind chairmen Art Torres and Howard Dean, and rolling out U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to denounce it as a cynical attempt to steal the White House by changing the rules here and nowhere else.
Schwarzenegger, albeit more diplomatically as a Republican, said much the same thing, telling ABC correspondent Nanette Miranda in a TV interview early this month: “To me, what we have in place right now works. I feel like if you all of a sudden in the middle of the game start changing the rules it’s kind of odd, it almost feels like a loser’s mentality, saying I cannot win with those rules, so let me change the rules. I have not made up my mind yet in one way or the other, because I haven’t seen the details on it but basically I would say there is something off with this whole idea.”
A few days later, the governor went to the state Republican Party convention outside Palm Springs where he further challenged the party to find ways to appeal to the broad middle of the electorate.
Even if the measure is somehow revived, it has never had good prospects. As the Field Poll showed last month, it began with a support level under 50%. That is historically a death knell for a ballot measure. Especially so for one the public hasn’t heard much about.
To me, it has always seemed like an idea too clever by half. One that might force Democrats to spend money to defeat it, to be sure. But also one that would force Republicans to pony up the cash to make it viable. And Republican fundraising, as we’ve seen all year, is down. Their resources are better spent elsewhere.
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