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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Schwarzenegger May Hit the Bush Campaign Trail

August 12, 2004|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — With his prime-time Republican National Convention speech fast approaching, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he could reverse course and campaign out of state for President Bush.

Schwarzenegger previously had indicated he would not leave California to campaign, citing the demands of governing. But in an interview he said that he was prepared to make some appearances, though he had no specific plans.

"If there's a place, one place where they want to pop me in, this makes sense for me," he said.

The governor is to introduce First Lady Laura Bush today at a Republican Party fundraiser in a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. President Bush is also scheduled to attend.

"I'm a supporter there, yes," Schwarzenegger said.

Patricia Clarey, the governor's chief of staff, has been talking with Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, and Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman about a time and place where Schwarzenegger would campaign on the president's behalf.

"The governor has said that whenever [President Bush] comes to California he'll campaign for him," Clarey said. "And at the end of the campaign, if they feel they have a need where we can help them, then we'll try to find the time to do it."

Schwarzenegger's value as a campaigner is twofold: His celebrity ensures large crowds and his moderate credentials could work to broaden Bush's appeal.

The president's reelection team is "looking for someone to be a surrogate who can reach out to the more moderate Republican and independent voters that Bush has lost," said Bill Carrick, a national Democratic campaign strategist.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger represents a different kind of Republican face than the Southern Republican wing that Bush is so identified with -- more of a Western, live-and-let-live, socially progressive, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, environmentally concerned kind of voter," Carrick said.

Since becoming governor in November, Schwarzenegger has been restrained in his support for the president, and he has called on the Bush administration to increase federal aid to California.

Polls show that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry is running comfortably ahead of Bush in California.

The White House appears to recognize Schwarzenegger's value, awarding the governor one of the prizes of the convention: a speech in prime time on Aug. 31.

Schwarzenegger would not say what he planned to speak about.

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