When Arnold Schwarzenegger captured half the vote in the 135-person California recall, pundits said he had found the lost key to Republican victory in a state the party has been losing for a decade. For Arnold had carried three in 10 Latino votes!

A hard second look by UPI analyst Steve Sailer, however, shows this to be an urban myth. “Republicans performed strongly in the California recall,” he writes, “because they did what Republicans must always do: earn lots of votes from that enormous but apparently unmentionable bloc – whites.”

It was not Arnold’s showing among Hispanics that won him the governorship, but his astonishing strength among whites. Equally important, Democratic pandering appears to have sunk Davis, and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, in a landslide.

A bit of political history. From 1992 through 2003, there were 12 major races in California, for the U.S. Senate, governor, president. Of those 12, Republicans have won only two – Arnold’s victory and Gov. Pete Wilson’s remarkable comeback in 1994.

The conventional wisdom is that Wilson, with his all-out backing of Proposition 187 denying welfare benefits to illegal aliens, awakened the sleeping giant of California politics, the Hispanic vote, and filled it with a terrible resolve to punish the GOP for racism. After 1994, pundits note, never again did the GOP win the state. Wilson had killed the party by alienating Hispanics. Republican moderates accepted this verdict, and sought repeatedly to do penance and pander – and failed every time.

But, as Sailer notes, Wilson’s 1994 campaign does not explain why the GOP went 0-3 two years before, in 1992. Bush I lost California to Clinton that year, and GOP candidates were defeated by Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. In all three contests, the GOP lost the white vote.

But in 1994, Wilson won 61 percent of the white vote. In 2003, the two GOP candidates, Arnold and state Sen. Tom McClintock, won 67 percent of the white vote. Arnold alone got 53 percent. This, not Arnold’s 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, produced the Schwarzenegger earthquake.

Analyzing the 12 elections, Sailer finds that the Republican vote among Hispanics is always 22 to 28 points lower than the GOP vote among whites. 2003 was no different. The Republicans got 67 percent of the white vote and 41 percent of the Hispanic vote, a “perfectly normal 26 percentage-point gap.”

Conclusion: The swing vote, the decisive vote, the “gettable” vote for the GOP is not Hispanic. It is “non-Hispanic white.” This is the vote President Bush must win to carry the state. If whites stay home, or Bush fails to rally a majority, he will lose California again.

On what issue has the GOP been able to win the white vote?

Again, Wilson, whom the press says alienated Hispanics, was, before Arnold, the only Republican in 10 years to carry California. He won on the coattails of Proposition 187, which attracted two-thirds of the white vote and 37 percent of Hispanics. Not only did Arnold support 187, Wilson played a visible role in his campaign.

The media contend that a tripling of the car tax, which auto owners discovered in the mail a week before the recall, was the prime factor in Davis’ defeat. But a survey by the Federation for American Immigration Control found another factor – “30 percent of voters said Davis’ approval of the bill (giving drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens) influenced their decision to support the recall.”

Davis pandered to Hispanics by reversing himself and signing that drivers’ license bill. Bustamante endorsed Davis’ pandering. And the pair were slaughtered and buried by white voters.

Thus that hard second look at the California returns reveals this: The GOP share of the Hispanic vote in California has held steady for a dozen years at about 25 points below its white vote. The key to Republican victory is a high turnout among whites, and the party winning that vote going away.

And the key to winning the white vote is opposition to illegal immigration, to taxpayer-subsidized benefits for illegal aliens and to any form of amnesty, including giving illegals drivers’ licenses. The lesson of the recall? Ethnic pandering is political suicide in California.

Yet, President Bush refuses to oppose amnesty for illegals. Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger has endorsed a form of amnesty. And the GOP Congress is toying with various versions of amnesty.

If the party continues on this course, it will forfeit any chance of carrying California and open itself up to a Third Party challenge, on the immigration issue, which could cost it the presidency. What are they thinking of?

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