As Arnold Schwarzenegger garners a growing number of endorsements from mainstream GOP organizations and gains momentum in the polls, California's far-right Christians, a key Republican voting block, are ramping up their opposition to his campaign, arguing that the actor--a so-called moderate who favors gay rights--is no different than Gov. Gray Davis. In what could be a test for control of the party, the antigay Traditional Values Coalition will begin airing a statewide one-minute TV spot Thursday, showing Schwarzenegger's face morphing into Davis's, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "The ultimate message is, there's no difference between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, so what's the purpose of the recall?" said Lou Sheldon, head of the TVC's political action committee. "It reminds them to make a better choice."
Schwarzenegger has pitched himself as a social moderate who, for example, supports gay rights. Sheldon, who estimates that evangelicals represent one out of five GOP voters in the state, said he supports state senator Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), a longtime conservative favorite who has been registering 15-20% in the polls. Sheldon and others on the religious right argue that the GOP is blinded by Schwarzenegger's box office appeal. "I just don't know how California can allow that man to say that he is a Reagan Republican and Reagan is his idol," Sheldon said of Schwarzenegger. "Reagan was pro-life to the core, did not support the homosexual agenda--and certainly was conservative on many other viewpoints."
In addition to its TV spots debuting this week, Sheldon's organization has sent out hundreds of thousands of voter guides that will hit churches and voters' homes in the final days before the recall vote, the Chronicle reports. The efforts have been bolstered by groups such as Save California, a pro-family political action committee that began running radio ads Tuesday to challenge "antifamily" positions held by Schwarzenegger and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the leading Democrat in the replacement contest. "Arnold is for homosexual adoptions, gay marriage by another name, and
taxpayer-funded abortions through all nine months of pregnancy," said Randy Thomasson of Save California in a statement this week. "The Terminator is terminating family values and is spoiling the pro-family image of the Republican Party."
Some conservatives may so oppose the idea of a Schwarzenegger victory in the replacement contest that they would vote against the recall of Davis, political consultant Steve Frank told the Chronicle. Frank, who writes a regular political newsletter for conservative Republicans, said that he took a poll of 1,800 party faithful last week with some surprising results. "I asked, 'If your candidate cannot win, would you vote no or yes on the recall?'" Frank said. "Almost two thirds of the close to 1,800 responses said they would vote no on the recall." Mike Spence, who heads the conservative California Republican Assembly--which endorsed McClintock--also said there is some notion that GOP rebels will vote no on the recall if it appears to be a Schwarzenegger rout. "I've heard more and more of that," he said. Some conservative voters, he said, are "thinking, Why elect a Republican who might raise taxes and declare war on conservatives?"