Schwarzenegger's Win May Change 2004 Presidential Dynamic

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - Does California's Republican Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger pose a danger to Democrats at the national level? Some political analysts think so. While the state remains a largely Democratic state that President Bush would likely have trouble winning in 2004, the analysts said Schwarzenegger should be viewed as a force to be reckoned with.

University of California political scientist Bruce Cain said Schwarzenegger could prove a powerful fundraiser for Republicans nationwide. "I think it is a plus for not only statewide Republicans but also for George Bush because California often operates as kind of the national bank for elections in this country," said Cain.

Schwarzenegger, who will become California's 38th governor, is expected to meet with President Bush in Riverside, Calif., next week during a presidential fundraising trip. California, with its 55 electoral votes, is by far the biggest political prize in the presidential election next year. But by the time November 2004 rolls around, Schwarzenegger's ability to help Bush win re-election might also have worn off, Cain said.

"You can't rule out the possibility that if Arnold is incredibly successful and he lends his support to the president that he may have some 'reverse coattails,'" said Cain. But, most people think it's going to be "a lot rougher" for Schwarzenegger to solve California's massive budget shortfall and for Bush to survive voter discontent with Iraq and the economy, he added.

The Brookings Institution's Thomas Mann said Schwarzenegger's presence is unlikely to reverse the recent political history of presidential contests in California.

"This doesn't change in any measurable way the likelihood of California moving into the Republican column in the Electoral College in 2004," Mann said. "California is ... very likely to remain Democratic. With the referendum [in 2004] being on the Bush presidency rather than the Davis governorship, the odds are that Democrats will be able to win California in the presidential contest without expending a huge amount of resources," he predicted.

Bush "ought to be grateful" that there's no recall provision at the national level, Mann continued, because Davis was sunk by his state's economic woes and by cynicism surrounding his focus on fundraising -- two qualities he said "might be applied to Bush."

"Bush will win or lose in California pretty much on his own in 2004," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

"Arnold can't deliver California any more than [former GOP Governor] Tom Ridge could deliver Pennsylvania in 2000, or [former Gov.] John Engler could deliver Michigan to Bush."

But Schwarzenegger's win doesn't help Democrats either, said Sabato.

"Certainly, Davis' defeat can't be good news for the Democratic presidential nominee
in 2004," said Sabato. "And Bill Clinton and all of the presidential candidates who flocked to California to appear with Davis look impotent."

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