I covered Arnold’s speech to the California Chamber of Commerce today, and his press conference immediately following, on a bluff above the beach in Dana Point, in southern Orange County. After Arnold spoke, one of his senior advisers, Mike Murphy, the former John McCain operative, spun the press for a minute or two. I thought you might want to see a mostly unedited transcript of what that sounds like. Then, as I was leaving the event, I interviewed a few people who were hanging out on the street hoping to see the candidate. One of them was Mike Kennedy, a Republican who is very much for the recall and said he was excited at first about Arnold but has cooled to him recently because of his failure to show for the debate and his lack of detail on the issues. I thought his comments were also worth reproducing here, because I think he is reflective of the buzz going on around the campaign, and the problems Arnold has caused for himself by ducking tough questioning until now. I do think if Kennedy had been inside the hall with the chamber suits he would have come away impressed, so it's likely that his comments are a lagging indicator. But they're relevant nonetheless. Here are the two Mikes:
Senior Adviser Mike Murphy, explaining the campaign’s strategy, taking a shot at Bustamante’s special interest money and defending Arnold against the charge that he is anti-woman:
“What we have been trying to do now, is get him out, just about every day, at public events, talking about what he’s for. We’re doing both more policy oriented events, like this group, and also give you guys avails. We’re also doing more people-oriented events, we have got some town halls coming up, a whole bunch of stuff, so we are going to be working every day to get his message out because we think it’s a great message.
“We are feeling really good about the last 72 hours. We can kind of just feel it all, because we had a little stumbling around there for a while and now we think we’re cooking. We have faith in our guy. We want to get him out there talking to everybody.
“This is going to be a great campaign. There is only one candidate who is about change. I think the contrast today was very clear. He was talking about jobs, and the crisis in the economy in California. And the other candidates were defending more of the status quo.
“Today I read in the paper, as did Arnold, we were talking about it coming over here, $700,000 from a single union that has a an employer relationship with the state. Now, perfectly legal…but it’s wrong. It’s a symbol of everything people want to change. And I think what I am seeing is a morphing of all the abuses of the Davis Administration becoming the everyday operating behavior of candidate Bustamante. So I think people are very tired of rent-a-governors here. They want somebody who’s got the independence to clean things up.”
What about women’s groups complaining about his comments in magazine interviews?
“I think it’s background noise in the campaign. Everybody who knows Arnold knows he is very strong for women’s rights. I have been working with this organization now, and there are a lot of very strong women around who have a lot to do with it. So I think it’s a ludicrous charge. I think it’s background noise. I think the people of California would be much happier to see the candidates talk about what they are going to do for jobs and the economy and to clean up this mess in Sacramento than to play these kinds of silly games on the sidelines.”
Here is Mike Kennedy, 49, a Republican voter from Laguna Niguel, on Arnold:
“He hasn’t given us any reason to believe he’s got the answer to fix this $38 billion deficit that we’ve got. He’s running on his popularity and his charisma and that’s a wonderful thing, but…I want to hear more detail, what he’s going to do to fix this $38 billion deficit. He’s not going to address Prop 13, he’s not going to address DMV fees, let’s hear him make a stand.”
I told Kennedy that Arnold, while offering more specifics today, also repeated his stance that the public doesn’t need to hear all the details. Here was Arnold’s quote:
“Everyone is talking about the details. Details, details, details. Sacramento is filled with warehouses of details. But the thing they are lacking is leadership. The thing that Sacramento is lacking is backbone.”
Kennedy agreed, but still wanted more: “I think that’s a legitimate position. And again, what is going to be his plan? I know he can’t fix it overnight. But what’s going to be his plan on energy? What’s going to be his plan on property tax, DMV fees, gasoline tax? Obviously we, the residents of the state of California are going to have to pay, it’s just when, where and how much.
“My main thing is whoever takes over this next office, what checks and balances are going to be put in place so that when it starts to slide the wrong way, who puts the brakes on and when?
“He’s got charisma. He’s been a good businessman. From what I understand he’s acquired a bunch of wealth outside his movie career. But he hasn’t told me or anybody else how he’s qualified to run the state of California. Is he a prepared trouble shooter to go in and fix things? It’s one thing to run a company, all things being equal, can he go in and fix the problems, this tremendous deficit, and who gets cut and who doesn’t? I mean that’s a tough task for anybody, not just him. He’s kind of like on the fence right now and hasn’t made a commitment to anybody.”