HANDICAPPING THE RECALL….One of the rules of real punditry is not to make predictions, but where’s the fun in that? So let’s make some predictions in the recall election.

First off, with a respectable Democrat in the race, I think the recall with succeed. My prediction is that it will get 55-60% of the vote and Gray Davis will get tossed out.

Second, I don’t think the courts will stop the election.

And third, I think Cruz Bustamante will be our next governor. Let’s take a little closer look at that.

Although Arnold is a formidable candidate, I think he’s going to be less formidable as time goes on. His past is going to get dredged up and it’s going to turn some voters off. He’s going to have to answer questions, and his answers won’t please some people. And there are interest groups out there that are going to target him. He’s going to have a tough time, even if he can monopolize the television coverage, and I think he’s going to discover that big time politics is a rougher business than making movies.

So here’s how I think it’s going to play out. I figure that about 40% of the state will refuse to vote for anyone but a liberal or a Democrat. With John Garamendi out of the race, that means the only lib/Dem candidates are Cruz Bustamante and Arianna Huffington. I think Bustamante will get about 33% of the vote and Huffington will get about 7%.

Another 55% will go to Republicans, and here’s how I tote them up:

  • Schwarzenegger: 25%

  • Bill Simon: 12% (lots of name recognition, plus some sympathy votes)

  • Tom McClintock: 7% (gets the hardline conservative vote)

  • Peter Ueberroth: 5% (gets the moderate “competence” vote)

  • Everyone else: 6%

Finally, minor party candidates and weirdos will get about 5% of the vote.

The wild card in all this is whether Schwarzenegger is able to convince his Republican opponents to bow out and support him. McClintock is such an ideologue that I don’t think he’ll drink the Kool-Aid, but Ueberroth might if his poll numbers look lousy a month from now, and Simon might too if it becomes clear that he can’t win. If Schwarzenegger and McClintock end up as the only serious Republicans, Schwarzenegger wins.

As for turnout, my guess is that it turns out to be a wash. Lots of angry Republicans who want to get rid of Gray Davis will come to the polls, but I think they’re going to be balanced by a lot of angry Democrats who think the GOP is trying to hijack the election. So turnout won’t be skewed enough to make the difference.

So: on October 7, Cruz Bustamante becomes governor of California, three years earlier than he expected. I hope he knows what he’s doing.

UPDATE: Sheesh, it’s only been ten minutes since I posted this and I’m already thinking I probably got some of this wrong. Hell, I’m almost certain that I got some of this very, very wrong. I guess real pundits don’t say stuff like that, either.

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