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California Doesn't Rank as a Sununu-Shine State : Politics: State GOP money men blame the White House chief of staff for the President's lack of interest in the state.

November 19, 1989|Joe Scott | Joe Scott is a Los Angeles political journalist

The good news for President Bush is that most Californians believe he's doing a good job. The bad news is the mounting friction between the White House and big-time Republican contributors in the state. Many of them see a potentially fatal anti-California bias residing on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The strain was apparent, sources say, when state members of "Team 100," each of whom was responsible for contributions of $100,000 to Bush's campaign, recently visited Washington. "(The President's) basically an Easterner," said one of them. "The aura of (California) is really foreign to him. Add the Ronald Reagan connection, and a degree of intimidation creeps in, creating political distance."

A far more serious irritant to Bush donors, who'd grown accustomed to the warm civility of the Reagan era, is the personal style of White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. The former New Hampshire chief executive, who prefers being called "governor," is considered downright arrogant and abrasive. To Sununu, California is little more than "a very important province," according to another source. "The Sununized mind-set is to send Dan Quayle out (to California). Why? Because he looks good on TV."

Part of the problem is that Bush has no close California friends who can keep him apprised of developments in state politics. During his vice presidency, his then-chief of staff, Craig Fuller, fulfilled that role. Bush not only knew what was going on in the state, but he also was plugged into the money crowd around Sen. Pete Wilson and Gov. George Deukmejian. That began to change when Fuller lost out to Sununu for the chief-of-staff job.

The best example of just how strained the ties between the Oval Office and the state GOP money Establishment have become is evident in Sununu's relationship with Wilson. Unable to change Wilson's mind on several key Senate votes, the "governor" retaliated by scrubbing Bush's scheduled appearance at a million-dollar fund-raising dinner for Wilson's gubernatorial campaign in Los Angeles last month. Furious Wilson supporters got even when they signed up President Ronald Reagan to headline a Nov. 29 dinner in Century City.

Unlike Sununu, GOP National Chairman Lee Atwater recognizes the electoral importance of California. But unless he engages in some Sununu damage control soon, President Bush may pay in campaign dollars and 1992 votes for his chief of staff's anti-California bias.

Has Richard Nixon succeeded in putting Watergate behind him?

A recent memorandum from John H. Taylor, Nixon's ever-vigilant assistant, seems to imply that the former President has not only completed his rehabilitation but also will be vindicated in 1990.

Another Nixon-authored book, described as a memoir about "victory, defeat and renewal," is due next spring. Then, dedication of the Nixon Presidential Library on the site of his birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif., is scheduled June 21. But what's got the Nixon faithful really buzzing is the post-dedication, $250-a-napkin victory dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

It was just a mile away that the defeated GOP gubernatorial candidate told reporters in 1962 that they wouldn't have him "to kick around anymore...this is my last news conference."

L.A. whispers. Dianne Feinstein's freshly hired media adviser, Hank Morris, says that his new boss will have $2.5 million "in the bank, or committed" by year's end. Be that as it may, the real story is that the former San Francisco mayor and her wealthy husband, investment adviser Richard Blum, will pump $1.5 million into her cash-poor primary campaign. How soon, and in what increments. is pivotal. Against far richer Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp, Feinstein will need nearly $3 million more to be viable. . . . Look for Deukmejian soon to announce that he'll lead an initiative drive next November that, if approved, would force prisoners to work for their cell and board.

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