Republicans need to erase memory of Schwarzenegger
In the California Republican Primary, it seems that Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner aren't merely running against one another.
They're also running against the incumbent -- Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"Schwarzenegger" has become rhetorical shorthand for "bad Republican" in this primary election. When one considers what has become of California's finances under Schwarzenegger, it isn't hard to understand why.
The financial commitments of the California government continue to grow, while revenue becomes harder and harder to come by.
Republicans have responded by effectively re-casting Schwarzenegger as a Democrat.
"Conservatives want to make him look like a Democrat as much as possible, so they can distinguish their own mantra from what they feel to be an establishment that caters to liberal causes," said San Jose State University political scientist Larry Gerston. "To conservatives, he's the classic definition of a RINO: a Republican in name only."
Clearly not only do Whitman and Poizner need to rhetorically re-brand Schwarzenegger for their own political gain, but also for that of their party.
No Republican will be able to contend for the office of Governor if they can't offer an alternative to Schwarzenegger.
But as badly as they need to distinguish themselves from Schwarzenegger just to be electable, Poizner and Whitman also need to find creative ways to manage California's deficit.
Moreover, they don't merely need to manage California's budget given the fiscal obligatons of today.
The state's ballot initiative law means that these obligations are continually subject to change. In California, anyone who can collect enough signatures on a petition can place a legislative proposal on the election day ballot.
Schwarzenegger himself attempted to gain control of California's budget through a number of ballot initiatives. These efforts failed.
At this point the only viable option may be to muster the courage to overturn past ballot initiatives in order to make deep enough cuts to the state's budget to erase the deficit.
The path for whichever candidate becomes the Republican nominee will be an extremely difficult one.