By John Mercurio
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Energized by 54- and 48-percent wins (on the recall and his candidacy, respectively, as reported at 7:27 a.m. EDT) -- and fortified with a longer-than-expected night's sleep -- Arnold Schwarzenegger today can lay claim to more prey than just Gray Davis.
• In one night, Schwarzenegger defeated George Pataki as the nation's most liberal Republican governor.
• He beat Hillary Clinton as the American politician with the most star power.
• And we predict that he'll match, if not outpace, George W. Bush as the most coveted GOP fund-raiser ever to walk the Earth.
But the governator-elect shouldn't get too comfortable. As Davis conceded his first election defeat in 30 years last night, supporters at the Biltmore Hotel downtown chanted "Recall! Recall! Recall!" As in recall Arnold. State law lets them start gathering signatures today.
Even if Schwarzenegger gets a pass, his new lieutenant and erstwhile "Question 2" rival suggested that frosty relations await Arnold in Sacramento. "Arnold you are very famous for making movies all over the world and I want you to feel free to continue doing that," Cruz Bustamante said during his concession, which was dropped by every network as Schwarzenegger began his acceptance. "Go where you like, feel free to stay as long as you like, I'll be here keeping an eye on things."
Schwarzenegger, the first Kennedy-Shriver ever to win a gubernatorial race, is scheduled to hold a news conference this afternoon at 6 p.m. EDT (3 p.m. PDT) at the Century Plaza. Aides say he'll claim the mandate his landslide clearly bestows upon him and will chart out in more detail his first 100 days in office.
Aides said Arnold won't specifically discuss the political boost his win offers Republicans, here in California and across the country. But then, he really doesn't need to. The GOP's bragging rights today are huge and obvious.
One nugget, dug up by CNN's political researcher, Mark Rodeffer: Schwarzenegger's win marks the first time since Reconstruction that the nation's four most populous states (California, Florida, New York and Texas) have all had Republican governors, three of whom won their 2002 re-election bid by double digits. Two of those states, New York and California, are considered Democratic strongholds.
What's more, Schwarzenegger received some 48 percent of the vote (per 7:27 a.m. EDT figures with 96 percent of precincts reporting) in a 135-candidate field. That's 2 percent more than the no-vote on Question 1 (46 percent in the 7:27 a.m. EDT numbers).
Schwarzenegger's showing neutralizes a key challenge that Democrats had hoped to pose to his legitimacy -- that he was elected with less support than Davis received.
All in all, not a bad way for Bush to launch his re-election campaign, no?
At least one Democrat disagrees.
Howard Dean, who just one day earlier urged Californians to oppose the recall, said the anti-incumbent mood that targeted Davis will find its way to Bush next year. "Tonight the voters in California directed their frustration with the country's direction on their incumbent governor," Dean said in a statement aides released just eight minutes after the polls closed in California. "Come next November, that anger might be directed at a different incumbent ... in the White House."
So, what happens next?
Schwarzenegger answered that question on October 1 in a news conference that was largely forgotten because it took place the day before the Los Angeles Times published the first group of women's charges against Arnold.
If elected, Schwarzenegger said he would:
• Repeal Davis' tripling of the car tax.
• Freeze spending and launch an audit of the state budget.
• Call a special legislative session in Sacramento and make spending cuts to address the state's current fiscal imbalance.
• Get a fair share of Native American gaming revenue.
• Renegotiate state employee union contracts to get a better deal for taxpayers.
• Pass a "jobs package" with "real" workers' compensation reform.
• Submit a 2004-2005 budget that closes deficit and restructures inherited debt.
• Streamline the state school system's bureaucracy and send more money to classrooms.
• Repeal SB-60, the law that gives drivers' licenses to undocumented immigrants.
• Pass an open-government amendment and ban fund raising by state legislators during the budget process.
Before all that, of course, Schwarzenegger has to take office, which officials say won't happen for a month.
According to the California Secretary of State's office, the results of yesterday's voting will most likely not become official until November 15. It's possible the election will be certified before this date, but given the complexity of the ballot and vote count, officials say this is unlikely.
Schwarzenegger will likely assume office between November 15 and November 25. State elections code says the winning candidate must assume office within 10 days of the official vote certification, likely to be November 15. According to Shelley, Schwarzenegger can select the actual date he becomes governor.
Counties must begin their official canvass by tomorrow. The official canvass includes counting all votes cast at polling places, all absentee ballots received on election day, and all provisional ballots.
This process continues every workday for at least six hours per day and must be completed within 28 days (by November 4).
Party down, party up
While the Grind was chained to a desk in the bureau, sources fanned out across Los Angeles to the victory and defeat parties in the Biltmore Hotel (Davis) and the Century Plaza Hotel (Schwarzenegger). What they found were two very different affairs.
Not surprisingly, the Century Plaza -- at which TV satellite trucks had started lining up Sunday -- was significantly more crowded and star-studded. On hand for Arnold were actors Rob Lowe and Gary Busey as well as Jay Leno, who brought the campaign full-circle by introducing Schwarzenegger on stage.
One People magazine reporter counted 80 television cameras in the Century Plaza ballroom; There were only 50 cameras at the Biltmore, sources told the Grind.
At the Biltmore, recriminations and finger-pointing started early, hours before the polls closed.
One Grind contributor observed state labor chieftain Art Pulaski hashing it out with a youngish print reporter about how it all fell apart.
This was at 5 p.m. PDT, about three hours before polls closed.