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California and the West | Capitol Journal

'Running Man' Muses on Dash for Davis' Job

February 05, 2001|GEORGE SKELTON

SACRAMENTO — A reader was calling from his trailer. His trailer on a set. A column I'd written had gotten him all pumped up.

"Especially your last sentence when you said we need another Patton up there in Sacramento. That's a really good line," said Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I'd written a column about Gov. Gray Davis' reelection prospects--his losing the aura of invincibility--and cited increasing criticism of his leadership on energy. It ended with the observation that the Capitol longs for a Gen. Patton.

Hollywood's Last Action Hero emphasized he wasn't calling to belt Davis. "It's just a personal call." But the actor whom many Republicans consider their dream candidate for governor did spend some time knocking the Democrat.

"It comes down to leadership. You have to take risks and be able to just say, 'I've taken my best shot.' And that is what is lacking. . . .

"It's upsetting to everyone right now. . . . People are taking their companies out of state because they're worried [about electricity]. . . . And then someone cannot make up their mind what they really want to do. . . . You cannot make great decisions if you're just worried about your reelection."

Davis would dispute this, of course. Last Thursday, he signed a bill allowing his administration to buy electricity at reasonable prices on long-term contracts. He began a new statewide conservation effort. This week, the governor says, he will announce a major effort to increase power supply. He and the Legislature are working up a bill to bail out the utilities.

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Might the former Mr. Universe who once starred in "The Running Man" run against Davis next year? Possibly. Here's how he answered between scenes at a Sylmar water tunnel, where he's filming "Collateral Damage":

"I've thought about it many times because I love politics. . . . I get such great satisfaction out of helping people." (Schwarzenegger is a longtime leader of the Special Olympics for children with disabilities and national chairman of Inner-City Games for poor kids.)

"I saw in the last 10 years that I'm getting much more pleasure out of that than making money and making movies. And it's increasing my desire to do that. It can lead--and will lead, probably--to some political office. I haven't really said this is the time. But, you know, the bottom line is if Davis goes on the way he is . . . then eventually there will be a vacuum in a year and I could . . .

"I just leave it open. . . . If he doesn't keep his promises on all those issues--energy, environment, schools, health care--then you've got to say, OK, there's room for someone else.

"I have movie obligations [through] 2004. But I would sacrifice my, you know, $20 million a picture and all those things and forget about that to step in."

Schwarzenegger says he wouldn't take campaign money from special interests. In political circles, he's a valuable commodity: somebody rich enough to finance his own campaign.

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But he'd face unique problems: That name won't fit on a bumper sticker. There's the thick Austrian accent. And millions of photos exist showing him brandishing scary, bazooka-size firearms.

"I believe in sensible gun controls," Schwarzenegger says. "Definitely, I'm against assault weapons."

He's more moderate than his screen image. For example, he supports abortion rights.

"I'm a strong believer in social programs that work. I call myself quite liberal on those issues. But I'm conservative fiscally."

He's married into Democratic royalty, the Kennedy family. How would his wife, NBC-TV reporter Maria Shriver, react to his running against a Democratic incumbent? "My wife is a strong believer in all the things that I do," he replies, "and she will be 100% behind me. Family's family."

Schwarzenegger, 53, would be Ronald Reagan's age when that actor first ran for governor. He'd have a similar advantage: celebrity ID that would attract the voters' immediate attention. But then he'd have to deliver a clear message with conviction and prove he was up to the job.

There also are dissimilarities: Reagan already had immersed himself in politics. And his screen roles had been more wholesome--"The Gipper" rather than "The Terminator."

Schwarzenegger says of Davis: "I hope he does a great job so there's no reason for anyone to run against him. Because that's the ideal thing."

Ideal for California in resolving the energy crisis. Ideal for Schwarzenegger because he could keep collecting those $20-million paychecks and take time to gear up for a 2006 run.

If not, he may try to terminate Davis and play The General.

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