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Candy Crowley: Recall results not presidential predictor

CNN's Candy Crowley says California
CNN's Candy Crowley says California "tends to be on the cutting edge of a lot of things," including politics.

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- A state that overwhelmingly supported former Democratic Vice President Al Gore in 2000 ousted its Democratic governor Tuesday and knighted a Republican in a recall election.

Wednesday, CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley discussed what Arnold Schwarzenegger's election might mean for President George Bush in his bid for re-election in 2004. Below is an edited transcript of her conversation with Does this election have any national significance? With a Republican in the governor's mansion, will California be a more favorable stomping ground for Bush?

CROWLEY: It is always better to have a person of your own party heading the state when you are a presidential candidate.

Having said that, Tom Ridge, a Republican, was governor of Pennsylvania when George Bush lost it in 2000. Tommy Thompson, also a Republican, was governor of Wisconsin when George Bush lost it in 2000. Michigan had John Engler, a Republican. And George Bush lost it.

It is of some import not just because it signifies something about where the voters are. And in fact, very often at the state level, voters tend to move from one party to the other more easily in a governor's election. It seems to be more cyclical in most states rather than partisan.

What it is, though, is that if you have a long-established Republican governor, and you are George Bush running for re-election, you can use that governor's fund-raising mechanism, you can use his infrastructure of staff and volunteers to set up your own campaign. So that's helpful.

Now having said that, in California, I cannot imagine -- and woe be to the person who says this -- chances are slim to none that George Bush could carry California. He lost it to Al Gore by about a million votes.

A case can be made that Arnold Schwarzenegger was voted in not because he is a Republican, because there are a million more registered Democrats in California than there are Republicans. It isn't that Arnold Schwarzenegger was a Republican. It's that he represented a change. People were angry. This is not so much a party thing as it was that, 'We don't like Gray Davis. We don't like what he's done. We're tired of these taxes. We're tired of the state of the economy.' So they voted for the ultimate outsider.

It was more anti-establishment, and Gray Davis just happen to take the brunt of the anger because he was the top guy.

Now can the president campaign alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and draw a big crowd? Sure. Might this help his fundraising? It might. The president so far has not shown any problems with his fund-raising mechanism. But insofar as helping George Bush get elected, I think this California election is a complete wash.

I think nationally it stays the same, and that California is a near certain bet in the Democratic column in the presidential race.

The other thing that will be useful to the Bush campaign is to take a look at the numbers in the polls, what we call the internals: Who voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and why? Because those exit poll numbers are questions: Why did you vote the way you did? Are you a Republican or an independent? What is it about Arnold Schwarzenegger or what is it about Gray Davis that caused you to vote for or against them?

Those are very early warning signals to any candidate about where the populace is, at least in California and maybe elsewhere. As we all know, California tends to be on the cutting edge of a lot of things. It led the anti-tax movement that swept the country. So it can be a very useful election for the intelligence that's gathered in the end at exit polling. But in terms of any real impact, such as helping give the state of California to George Bush [in 2004], I just don't see that happening.

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