Calif.: Two More Bush Vets Join Arnold
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is continuing his raid on top talent from President Bush's 2004 campaign, recruiting two more well-regarded GOP operatives in recent days.
Katie Levinson, who is currently the director of White House television operations, will soon join the Schwarzenegger campaign as its communications director. Matt McDonald, who handles much of the Bush administration's rapid response efforts, will move to California to set up a similar operation for Schwarzenegger. Levinson, who is viewed in GOP circles as a major recruit in the 2008 presidential staff sweepstakes, handled television strategy and planning for the Republican National Committee in 2004. McDonald worked on Bush's rapid-response team in 2004 and previously did a stint at the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The two new hires join campaign manager Steve Schmidt and senior adviser Matthew Dowd as members of the Schwarzenegger hierarchy with close ties to Bush.
The similarity in campaign teams seems to suggest that Schwarzenegger is planning to use the Bush blueprint in his own reelection fight against whoever wins the Democratic primary -- state Controller Steve Westly (D) or state Treasurer Phil Angelides (D). That model relied heavily on growing the pool of potential Bush voters through an extremely specialized targeting operation, a strategy that led to Bush receiving 12 million more votes in 2004 than in 2000 -- a 23 percent increase. It remains to be seen whether such an effort can succeed in California, where Democrats have a clear voter registration edge.
Schwarzenegger's reelection prospects at the moment are cloudy. After riding a wave of public support in the wake of his recall election victory in 2003, Schwarzenegger struggled to recapture that backing in 2005 -- a year punctuated by the failure of a series of ballot initiatives he backed in a November special election. Democrats who seemed willing to give Schwarzenegger the benefit of the doubt initially appear to have abandoned him in droves.
Since the 2005 special election, Schwarzenegger has restructured his political team -- bringing in Democrat Susan Kennedy as his new chief of staff and adding Schmidt, Dowd, Levinson and McDonald. The Governator also ended his formal relationship with political Svengali Mike Murphy -- although both sides insist that the high-profile media consultant will be involved in the campaign on a volunteer basis.
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