Last week Arnold declared his candidacy for governor of California. I was broadcasting at the time, immediately endorsed him, and immediately began to receive a steady flow of mail from Tom McClintock and Bill Simon fans. Tom and Bill are fine guys, and both have been my guests on countless occasions. I endorsed Bill over Dick Riordan last March and stand by that choice. When it comes to elections, I am a single-issue voter: I support the most conservative candidate who has the most realistic chance of winning.

In the Republican California primary of 2002, that was Bill Simon.

In the recall election of 2003, that is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here is my analysis:

  1. Cruz Bustamante may get 30 percent of the vote – the die-hard, dead-end Democrats and the beneficiaries of the iron triangle of special interests that currently control Sacramento: the unions, tribes, trial lawyers. Even if there was only one “movement” conservative in the race – McClintock or Simon – neither of them could get the 30 percent +1 vote needed to win. Schwarzenegger can. Arguing about what-might-have-been doesn’t change the facts on the ground.

  2. Schwarzenegger is best positioned to withstand the “Graystopo,” as the slime machine Gray has perfected has come to be called. If Schwarzenegger wasn’t in the race, all that withering fire would be turned on McClintock or Simon, and it would tear them apart. Schwarzenegger has the sort of celebrity status that lets him stay above a lot of the low blows. Some, like Democratic operative Bob Mulholland’s warning of “real bullets,” even backfire on the Democrats. This is a major advantage for Schwarzenegger.

  3. Schwarzenegger does great things for the re-election of George W. Bush by immediately putting California into ’04 when Schwarzenegger is sworn in as governor, and Schwarzenegger helps the likely GOP Senate nominee against Barbara Boxer – the conservative Tony Strickland. So Schwarzenegger is closer to Pataki than Reagan, so what? It is a huge advantage to have an ally in the statehouse. The choice to think about with ’04 in mind is not Schwarzenegger vs. McClintock or Simon, it is Schwarzenegger vs. Cruz.

  4. The GOP benefits as a whole. Imagine you are Jim DeMint, likely nominee of the GOP for the open U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina, or Lisa Murkowski, incumbent GOP senator in Alaska. Wouldn’t it be great to call the Bush people and ask for and get Schwarzenegger to drop into your state for a little fundraiser at $1,000 a head? This is what Bill Clinton does 24x7x365. Schwarzenegger would be a hyperdraw on the fundraising circuit, a crucial component of politics, exceeded only by the president and the vice president. Three such draws is better than two.

  5. Finally, and really most important, is the state of the state. We are losing jobs and talent at an extraordinary rate. The yawning budget shortfall has been covered over with hot checks, and worker’s comp, time-off laws and crazy regs are driving hundreds of thousands toward the Arizona and Nevada borders. This state of collapse in the Golden State’s economy burdens the national economy as well, thus harming the president’s re-election effort. The state needs real help from a real businessman. Take a look at Schwarzenegger’s tax returns. Remember, he started with nothing except some natural talent. Sort of like the state right now. He can get the job done.

Time for the purists to check their passion at the door and focus on winning. A governor with whom I agree 75 percent of the time – or even 60 percent of the time – is far, far better than a governor with whom I never agree.

A vote for Tom McClintock, Bill Simon or Peter Ueberroth is a vote for Cruz Bustamante.

It really is that simple.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.