Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

The New York Times Magazine took a tour of the left coast, including a conversational jaunt with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and some rhetorical tanning time with likely gubernatorial contenders Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell.

The magazine's July 5 story, featuring Newsom as the cover boy with the text, "The Gavinator?!?!, asks in its headline: "Who can possibly govern California?"

In the lengthy piece, writer Mark Leibovich offers some pointed observations on the present governor and his potential replacements.

On Schwarzenegger:

- Schwarzenegger reclined deeply in his chair, lighted an eight-inch cigar and declared himself "perfectly fine," despite the fiscal debacle and personal heartsickness all around him. "Someone else might walk out of here every day depressed, but I don't walk out of here depressed," Schwarzenegger said. Whatever happens, "I will sit down in my Jacuzzi tonight," he said. "I'm going to lay back with a stogie."

On Brown:

- An unlikely grown-up in the field, Jerry Brown recently dubbed himself the Apostle of Common Sense...Brown credited Schwarzenegger with "making the job of governor bigger"...I asked Brown if he added size to the governor's office during his two terms..."I don't know he said. I added some...dimension to the job." "Dementia," (wife) Anne (Gust) said, laughing. "No, dimension," Jerry clarified.

On Newsom:

- There is indeed about Newsom something of that quintessential California type, the overgrown and hyperactive child. Immensely gifted but flawed, he is a jumble of self-regard, self-confidence and self-immolation - potential greatness and a potential train wreck in the same metrosexual package."

On Whitman:

- Whitman is probably the early leader in the "Why this Place is Such a Mess" campaign. The state is "bleeding jobs," she says. It is "effectively bankrupt."...Whitman's campaign message is "A New California." ("Thank God for West Virginia and Mississippi" didn't test well, apparently.)

On Poizner:

- Poizner faces many obstacles. For starters, he is the state's insurance commissioner, which is hardly an electoral launching pad. He also looks like a state insurance commissioner (bookish, with a beakish nose) and is little known, and his name sounds like "poison."

On Campbell:

- Of the three Republicans, Campbell is by far the most socially liberal - he calls himself libertarian - and the only one who opposed Proposition 8. His positioning on social and fiscal issues probably aligns him most closely with many of the potential voters and donors from Silicon Valley whom Whitman and Poizner are competing for.



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