Interesting news has come out of this week's US primaries (a process which selects the parties' candidates for the major elections later this year). In California Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger has come to the end of his allotted time as governor and will soon be passing on the baton.
You might assume that he's automatically endorsed the Republican nominee. Not so. You see there's a problem because the Republicans have selected a Tea Bagger, one of the new right and follower of Sarah Palin, whose politics are decidedly at odds with Arnold's more moderate Republicanism.
Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, was personally endorsed by Dick Cheney, and her selection was greeted with glee among the right-wing commentators.
According to her website she plans to create two million new private sector jobs in California by 2015 using targeted tax cuts alone, including abolishing capital gains tax. She's either a genius, a fool or a liar - or perhaps a bit of each. Of course, while she's creating jobs with her magic beans she'll also be laying off state workers with her proposed $15 billion cuts in public spending.
However, I'm sure this kind of conservative economic plan is not what's putting the current governor off. Rather it's her social conservatism that has him worried. Her anti-immigration stance, her pro-death penalty approach to law and order and most of all her approach to climate change.
It's her threat to suspend climate change legislation that has particularly smarted the current governor. He's been passionate about the need to tackle climate change and reduce our emissions and, in difficult fiscal circumstances, he has tried to carve out a strong reputation on the subject. This put him at odds with many in the party and saw the oil industry lobby hard against his proposals, a fight which, to his credit, he won. Now Whitman threatens to undo all the fruits of what was a colossal political fight.
It's no wonder Schwarzenegger is unwilling to leap to endorse her, and has even started saying nice things about the Democratic candidate. Could he really be preparing to endorse the opposition in order to save his legacy?
She will be facing a heavy weight opponent in former Democratic governor Jerry Brown (who was nick named "Governor Moonbeam" for his supposedly left-liberal approach). His main claim to fame as far as I'm concerned is that The Dead Kennedys ditty "California Uber Alles" is actually sung from the fictionalised perspective of Jerry Brown during his time in office. How cool is that?
Both Democratic and Republican primaries were evenly matched with 1.7 million people voting in each with Brown the runaway favourite for Democrats (84.1%) and Whitman more controversial among Republicans (64.2%).
Of course she still won a strong victory over her Republican opponents, which is a good job seeing as she used $80 million dollars of her own money just to secure the nomination, a sum which exceeds the combined spend of Republicans and Democrats on the entire 2006 Gubernatorial race. Astonishing.
Schwarzenegger spoke to the Washington Post telling them that "You're assuming I'm going to endorse the Republican". The Post went on;
"The governor did say he could change his mind "and endorse someone 14 days out. I don't know." ... he pulls back a little and suggests it's likely he would endorse Whitman -- if he endorses, that is. But he also said in the session with the editorial board that Brown had done some good things and some bad things during his two terms as governor. Schwarzenegger didn't elaborate, but the mere fact that he had a nugget of niceness for the Democrat two days into the general election is stunning. I can't wait to see how the party elders in California and here in Washington react to this."Of course he may well end up endorsing his Republican successor, but can you imagine that happening here? A Labour or Tory MP explicitly refusing to endorse fellow party members standing for election. It speaks to the growing split in the US right between a vocal and, frankly, moronic Palinite movement and more traditional Republicans who are often less theological in their approach to climate change, gay marriage and not bombing foreigners.
The Democrats have got a good chance of beating Whitman who is likely to polarise Republicans without winning many friends in the Democrat camp, but Whitman still has her billion dollar fortune to draw on so if they want to save California's climate legislation they better make sure they take her seriously.