The 'win and a do-over' scenario
Just about everyone in and around California's Capitol these days has a scenario for how this year's potentially earth-shattering, special-election political showdown will play out. I've asked dozens of folks over the last week or two to handicap the possibility of a full-scale initiative war coming to pass, and most put the prospects somewhere between 65 percent and 75 percent.
So, if the conventional wisdom is that there is a 25 percent to 35 percent chance of averting a war, how might the truce be reached?
The most intriguing scenario is one a former Capitol staff offered yesterday. It goes like this: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, sensing one or more of his ballot proposals now circulating may be fatally flawed and headed for likely defeat, will look for a way out. Democratic groups, led by public employee labor unions, will develop at least a slight case of sticker shock as the date approaches to pull the trigger on a $100 million campaign spending spree. The two sides will then make a deal on what seem to be the easier issues: redistricting and teacher tenure. A deal that would turn over redistricting to a bipartisan third party, but to wait until 2011 to do so, is doable. So is a deal that would slightly extend the teacher probationary period, giving school administrators a little more time to assess new teachers before giving them permanent job protection.
With that, Schwarzenegger could declare victory -- and it would in fact be a significant victory, because Republican governors have been trying for decades in California to take redistricting out of the hands of the Legislature.
And what about the other issues -- overhauling public employee pensions and putting a cap on state spending? Well, Schwarzenegger's people could go back to the drawing boards, put together new measures that fix the political weaknesses of the current ones (notably, the absence of a provision for death and disability benefits for public safety workers) and go back on the streets to qualify those measures for the June 2006 election.
That would give Schwarzenegger a victory and a do-over. It's the most plausible exit strategy I've heard yet.