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Cattle call in California

WHO SAYS politics can't be must-see TV? The recall free-for-all in California outdoes "Friends" in terms of number of special guest co-stars (aka candidates), and "WWE Smackdown" in the amount of trash talk to look forward to.

It plays as farce and as tragedy.

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A tearful Darrell Issa says he won't run for governor after he spent his own millions to fund the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger announces his candidacy on Jay Leno's talk show, and spends the rest of the first weekend of campaigning playing to a national network television audience as large as that of some of his more successful films .

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Meanwhile, the state with a small-nation-size hole in its budget girds itself for another unbudgeted expense, running an election in which 193 people have applied to take part.

Mr. Davis isn't an easy out, despite his "ice man" demeanor. Though he racked up a stunning 60 percent disapproval rating in an exit poll of voters in the governor's election nine months ago, he won the race -- carrying 47.3 percent of ballots cast.

Some are already tired of the blather of one-name wonder Angelyne, grown-up child star Gary Coleman and porn publisher Larry Flynt. The danger of a wing nut winning a 100-way election with 5 percent of the vote may swing quite a few crankies back to the "keep it Gray" side.

Still, Mr. Schwarzenegger's appeal cannot be denied, and neither can his campaign staff -- composed of Mr. Davis' predecessor, Pete Wilson, and many of Mr. Wilson's key advisors, and his wife, Kennedy cousin Maria Shriver. He already has a high-five from President Bush, who said on Monday he thought the star would be a good governor.

Could it happen here?

Not a chance.

Marylanders never adopted the initiative option for recalls or legislation, though they can fire up a popular referendum if they wish.

Baltimoreans themselves made noise with Question P, and the revamped city council has drawn a variety of candidates. None has the telegenic power of an action hero, though, so they'll have to content themselves with winning on the issues and their own shoe leather.

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This time, the ado will remain in the Golden State.


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