Davis has achieved the office that he set out to win 25 years ago. But he still is alone, and now he may have nowhere to go.
"It took me over 20 years to move 20 feet," he says, the distance between his office as Jerry Brown's chief of staff and the Governor's Office. He and his political team were ramping up a presidential campaign exploratory bid in the days after Al Gore's 2000 defeat. The power crisis of 2000, when Davis cut so many corporate-friendly contracts to keep the lights on, short-circuited any presidential plans.
But it's not only the national prize that is eluding Davis. In many ways, for the man whose guiding principles are precariousness, control and caution, what's missing is pleasure.
Davis speaks reluctantly about the psychic rewards of office. "I can't control everything. With every morning comes the prospect for a big surprise. I don't know what the Food and Ag Board is doing today. I can't know what all these boards are doing. I can't keep track of the staff and the cabinet." Asked how he would rate his enjoyment of the state's top job on a scale of zero to 10, he says with exasperation, "Why are you asking me a dime-store existential question?"
"He is not a happy governor," says one top Davis appointee. "I don't think he enjoys the job. It's sad, because he has worked his ass off to get here."