'Terminator' Could Replace Davis as Governor in Calif. Recall

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

(CNSNews.com) - Movie action hero, Kennedy spouse and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger is keeping people guessing about whether he'll vie for the California governorship.

The "Terminator" star has virtually 100 percent name recognition in a state where that's crucial, but it's not clear whether he has the political appeal to win the required plurality of votes on a crowded recall ballot or the backing of GOP party loyalists.

The fate of the wildly unpopular incumbent, Democrat Gray Davis, will likely entail a special recall election giving the politically liberal electorate the choice to remove him from office before his second term ends in 2007. The Recall Davis forces expect to finish collecting signatures in excess of the required 897,156 by July 7.

Rep. Darrell Issa, a two-term Republican from Vista, Calif., bankrolled the recall campaign and has said he intends to run for the top job. Other Republicans, like failed 2002 GOP candidate Bill Simon, may launch their own campaigns. The Austrian-born Schwarzenegger, 55, is one possible candidate who has remained decidedly cagey so far.

Schwarzenegger's advisers have said he will announce his intentions if the recall effort is a cinch to succeed. Back in April, he met with White House political advisor Karl Rove about a possible run.

Officially, state party officials are not endorsing a GOP candidate, though there's some evidence that Northern Californians fancy Issa, while Los Angeles Republicans go for Schwarzenegger.

Many conservative Republicans, like Rep. Richard Pombo, are suspicious of Schwarzenegger's admitted moderate social leanings.

Schwarzenegger has also described himself as a fiscal conservative, but that hardly indicates his views on controversial state issues like car taxes, traffic congestion, offshore oil drilling, the $38 billion hole in the state budget, air quality, immigration or the post-blackout electricity situation.

But some Republicans are openly nonplused by a potential Schwarzenegger candidacy.

"I will be blunt: If Arnold wanted to run for governor through the recall, Arnold should have helped the recall," said Republican Assemblyman Ray Haynes, an early supporter of the recall.

"We shopped the idea of the recall to a variety of people, including Schwarzenegger's representatives, and they chose not to get involved," said Haynes. "The person who chose to get involved and to make this recall go...was [Rep.] Darrell Issa.

"It's up to [Schwarzenegger] whether he goes or not, but it would have been a heck of a lot better" to have "been there for us when we asked him," said Haynes.

GOP consultant Sal Russo of the King Media Group wonders how Schwarzenegger will be able to shape his image beyond that of a violent action hero and handle inevitable political assaults from Davis politicos.

"When Arnold was going to run the last time, they started to unleash on him about womanizing, they leaked all kinds of stuff, and business deals and steroids," said Russo. "They were unrelenting. And then, when Arnold said he wasn't going to run, they laid off, and then, they went after [former candidates] Dick Riordan and Bill Simon."

And looking to past examples, Russo notes that celebrities usually decide against running for office.

"Every election year, there's 17 Hollywood stars and starlets that are supposed to be running," said Russo. "We've had a few - Sonny Bono, Ronald Reagan, George Murphy - but 99 percent of them have not run."

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See Earlier Story:
Push to Recall California Governor Enters Final Week
(June 30, 2003)

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