GOP Split with Schwarzenegger over Tax Hikes Headed for Divorce

“Arnold Schwarzenegger is like passing a kidney stone, and we’ve got another year to go,” said Jon Fleischman, a vice chairman of the California Republican Party. The GOP has parted ways with the governor because he reneged on his campaign promise never to raise taxes, a pledge he broke in order to resolve the state’s staggering $42 billion budget deficit. If Schwarzenegger and his party were a married couple, his party would be claiming irreconcilable differences and heading to divorce court.

Schwarzenegger could retire — or he could make another Terminator sequel, although it’s hard to game out why SkyNet would build an android that appears to be in its 60s and has hair plugs.

In a bit of fortuitous timing, on Friday, just hours after Schwarzenegger signed a budget bill that included $12.5 billion in tax hikes, he flew to Washington for the National Governors Association’s Winter Meeting. Meanwhile, in Sacramento, the California Republican Party gathered their annual convention. The mood there was dismal:

At a glum gathering of Republican faithful, GOP leaders hewed to the party’s traditional call to scale back government, even as many voters demand just the opposite to stop the economy’s downward slide.

[Fury] among Republicans over the $12.5 billion in tax hikes approved by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature led to fratricidal maneuvers to punish the six GOP lawmakers who voted Friday for the state budget…

The panel also rejected a proposal by a few delegates to extend “a heartfelt and sincere apology” to former Gov. Gray Davis for promoting his 2003 recall. Schwarzenegger, the delegates said, has “proven to govern as a tax-and-spend politician precisely similar to the one he campaigned to replace in the recall election.”

Disapproval of the party’s own governor was a major theme at an event with little of the festive atmospherics usually on display at party confabs, apart from a life-size cutout of Sarah Palin that proved to be a popular photo stop.

Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista, who bankrolled the recall of Davis, put it less colorfully. “Quite frankly, he’s failed to change the fundamental spending in California,” Issa said.

Rep. Issa bankrolled the recall because he hoped to ride it to the governor’s mansion. He famously broke down on camera, sobbing over the lost opportunity (not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars) when Schwarzenegger became the frontrunner.

It’s doubtful Schwarzenegger is concerned about the wrath of his party. For one thing, he’s a short-timer — term-limited out as of next year. He can retire to Bel Air and do nothing, if he chooses. Or he could make another Terminator sequel, although it’s hard to game out why SkyNet would build an android that appears to be in its 60s and has hair plugs.

Even if Schwarzenegger had additional political ambitions, it’s hard to see how the anger of his party could hurt him. The California GOP is broke and its voter registration is down to 31 percent, a historic low. One GOP analyst recently characterized the California Republican Party as “dead.” “Call the undertaker,” wrote Tony Quinn in December, “haul away the corpse.”

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