Blue in Year Two
|George Skelton at the LA Times pens a column today arguing that California governor's have a long history of a "sophomore jinx"--and it is a disease that afflicted Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2005.|
Here's the history lesson:
Gov. Pat Brown was elected by a landslide, but in his sophomore year, 1960, he was dubbed "a tower of jelly" for trying to save notorious "Red Light Bandit" Caryl Chessman — another death row author — from the gas chamber. At that summer's Democratic National Convention in L.A., Brown was tagged a "bumbler" for failing to control California's splintered delegation. His job ratings tumbled.
The derisive labels stuck for the rest of Brown's career, although he grew into a great governor, a "builder" Schwarzenegger now talks about emulating.
Celebrity Govs. Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown caught Potomac fever during their sophomore years and ran lamely, prematurely for president. Reagan was humbled, but soon recovered. Brown never did fully, earning the image of ambitious opportunist, although he was resurrected into a new political life as Oakland's mayor.
Gov. George Deukmejian was surprised by an embezzlement scandal in his sophomore year, but deftly handled it and endured little popularity loss.
Gov. Pete Wilson suffered a horrible second year. He meddled clumsily in Republican legislative primaries and angered party activists. He became mired in a summer-long budget quagmire, forcing the state to operate on IOUs. He sponsored a welfare/budget "reform" that voters rejected after Democrats attacked it as a "power grab." His job approval fell into the low 30s.
Gov. Gray Davis began stumbling down the path to destruction during his sophomore year. He reacted cautiously — if you can call it reacting at all — to the erupting energy crisis. Also, he was pushed by liberal legislators into spending a temporary revenue spike on permanent programs and tax cuts, leading to massive deficits and his recall.
Yet, all these governors recovered enough to win reelection. They had two years to bounce back, however.