Think it can't get any wilder?

SHERRY BEBITCH JEFFE is a senior scholar in the School of Policy, Planning and Development at USC and a political analyst for KNBC-TV.

SACRAMENTO and Los Angeles are abuzz with speculation about the Kumbaya coalition of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both Schwarzenegger and Nunez back Villaraigosa's effort to gain a say in running L.A.'s schools, and the three plan to campaign for passage of the November bond package to fund multiple construction projects in the state.

Then there's the chilly relationship between Villaraigosa and his party's nominee for governor, Phil Angelides. The mayor recently passed up an opportunity to endorse the state treasurer, a snub unusual in state Democratic politics.

Everybody expects Villaraigosa to run for governor. Schwarzenegger's reelection would better serve the mayor's ambition because the governor would be termed out in 2010. A Gov. Angelides wouldn't be termed out until 2014.

Amid rumblings of term-limit reform, the game of 2010 musical chairs has already begun.

Most political observers assume that Nunez, who would term out in 2008, and a Gov.-elect Villaraigosa could simply swap cities.

Not so fast. Even if everything goes smoothly, Villaraigosa can't just hand the office off to his friend Nunez.

Term limits will force L.A. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and City Controller Laura Chick to find new perches come 2009. L.A. County Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, both of whom have previously eyed the mayor's office, will be termed out in 2014. And all City Council members consider themselves potential mayors.

Interestingly, if Villaraigosa vacated the mayor's office to run for higher office, a special mayoral election would be called. Every elected official could run, without having to give up their current job -- not to mention the odd billionaire or Hollywood activist.

Wait a minute!

Schwarzenegger is an Angeleno. And he'd be termed out. And he's proved he can do really well in an open primary -- particularly one with a lot of candidates.

Hmmm ... politics is "the art of the possible."

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