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Schwarzenegger Uses Talk Radio to Start Spelling Out His Views

August 28, 2003|Joe Mathews, Jessica Garrison and Mark Z. Barabak | Times Staff Writers

Arnold Schwarzenegger for the first time in his gubernatorial race commented publicly Wednesday on abortion, gun control and gay rights as his campaign continued a weeklong effort to woo conservative voters.

Speaking on the Sean Hannity talk radio program, which has a wide following among conservatives, Schwarzenegger stuck to generally liberal positions on social issues but sought to stress the areas in which his views and those of conservatives coincide.

On abortion, for example, he repeated his support for abortion rights but noted that he opposed the procedures that abortion opponents call partial birth abortion and that he supported requiring teenagers to notify parents before undergoing an abortion.

He also said that though he backed giving gay couples the right to form domestic partnerships, he opposed allowing them to marry because "marriage should be between a man and a woman."

On Larry Elder's program on KABC-AM (790) in Los Angeles, Schwarzenegger said he supported several gun control measures, including background checks, trigger locks, a ban on assault rifles, and efforts to restrict the sale of guns at gun shows. But he added pointedly that he believed the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to bear arms.

For the last three days, Schwarzenegger has limited his public appearances to half a dozen interviews with Republican talk radio hosts. Such shows have been a critical base of support for the actor's strongest Republican rival, state Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), who has been publicly urged by some Schwarzenegger allies to quit the recall race.

Schwarzenegger's appearances have gotten mostly positive, if not particularly enthusiastic, reviews from conservatives. McClintock himself conceded Wednesday that the appearances have managed to blur distinctions between the two candidates.

"He is parroting many of the positions I have been proposing for years," McClintock said in an interview.

But McClintock added that after listening to Schwarzenegger on the Hannity program, he did not think his rival would make long-term inroads with conservatives.

"I'm gratified that I am exerting some gravitational pull on his emerging political philosophy," McClintock said. "The difference is, I've had my positions for 20 years and they are something people can count on."

Schwarzenegger's appearances on conservative radio come at a crucial time for his campaign, as Republican officials try to prod the party's conservative and moderate wings -- long at war with each other -- into coalescing behind his candidacy.

The state Republican Party holds its fall convention on Sept. 12, just 25 days before the Oct. 7 election, and an intraparty fight between Schwarzenegger and McClintock backers would almost certainly harm Republican chances of winning the governor's office.

At least some Republican conservatives can see the appeal of Schwarzenegger's candidacy -- although they have reservations.

"I know Tom," said Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Murrietta), referring to McClintock. "Tom can lead the pitchfork revolutionaries. The problem is he never comes in with anything more than a pitchfork and he's facing cannons and machine guns" in Gov. Gray Davis and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

"Arnold has the ability to marshal those kind of weapons," he said of Schwarzenegger. "The question is, for what will he marshal those weapons? Will it just be a change in the face without a change in the power structure, or will he actually step up to the plate and address the causes of the revolution?"

Of the state Assembly's 32 Republican members, 20 endorsed Schwarzenegger on Wednesday. Haynes did not.

Barbara Alby, a conservative leader in Sacramento during her days in the state Assembly and now a member of the Republican National Committee, said Schwarzenegger's public performances have been strong but unsurprising.

"He's an actor," said Alby, who remains neutral in the race. "He's very good at portraying what he wants to portray.

"I think he's been pretty honest about some of his more liberal views, and I appreciate that," Alby added. "I don't think he portrays himself as a conservative in any way, shape or form."

Other conservatives remain more openly negative toward Schwarzenegger's candidacy.

Michael Schroeder, a former state Republican Party chairman and campaign director for Bill Simon Jr.'s just-folded campaign, asked: "Where are the bones that are being thrown" to conservatives?

"It's not a question of how long he spends on talk radio. It's what he says," said Schroeder, who accused Schwarzenegger of "running to the left of Cruz Bustamante."

"He still hasn't articulated any conservative positions that give anyone reason to support him," Schroeder said.

Schwarzenegger has little choice but to try to appeal to conservatives, said Kenneth L. Khachigian, a longtime Republican strategist who worked with recall backer Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).

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