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View From Lodi, CA: President Schwarzenegger—Maybe
Schwarzenegger was so impressive that political insiders immediately began to speculate about what his odds might be if he were to become a candidate for president in 2008.
If Schwarzenegger is interested—and his friends say he is—at least two hurdles await him.
First, Schwarzenegger must be re-elected California governor in 2006. But since his likely opponent is democratic State Treasurer Phil Angelides, Schwarzenegger would seem a shoo-in.
Nothing turns voters off more than dreary green eyeshade types like Angelides droning on about budget deficits and the looming financial crisis.
Schwarzenegger's second challenge is the U.S. Constitution. Passing an amendment to allow naturalized legal immigrants who have lived in the US for two decades or more to become presidential candidates might not be easy—especially without Democratic support. But for the sake of this column, let's assume the hypothetical amendment passes.
Here is a tally-sheet of Schwarzenegger's assets and liabilities as a presidential candidate:
On the plus side:
- As the Governor of California, Schwarzenegger starts with 54 electoral votes in his hip pocket, a nice cushion to start off with.
- Schwarzenegger is a famous national figure. In an era where the majority of the electorate seems disengaged from politics, Schwarzenegger brings out the voters. In the 2003 California recall election, voter turnout was 63%---more than 13% higher than the typical voter participation level.
- No state politician in memory has been as adept at fund raising as Schwarzenegger. In a little more than a year, he has raised $30 million—a pace that leaves his predecessor Gray Davis, widely criticized for overseeing a money machine operation, in the dust. Last week, in Bakersfield, Schwarzenegger raked in $600,000 at a single dinner.
- Schwarzenegger has friends in high places. Witness how his wife, Maria Shriver, helped his gubernatorial effort.
- Unlike President Bush or his democratic challenger John Kerry, Schwarzenegger has personality. In Bakersfield, when questioned about the heavy security surrounding the building, Schwarzenegger said, "We want to make sure no one gets in without a contribution check."
- Schwarzenegger would be able to draw from his immigrant experiences—"the American dream"—to attract voters from most ethnic blocs.
- Schwarzenegger could run as a non-Bush Republican. While Schwarzenegger said good things about Bush in New York, he cautiously avoided any criticism of Democrat John Kerry Schwarzenegger instead urged people who "don't agree with this party on every single issue" to "join the party anyway."
By 2008, whether Bush wins or loses in 2004, a close affiliation with the Bush White House might be a political liability—especially if the war in Iraq continues poorly.
Schwarzenegger's decision not to campaign on behalf of Bush in Ohio immediately following the convention is telling. Any overly enthusiastic endorsement of the Bush presidency or activism on his behalf could come back to haunt Schwarzenegger.
On the minus side:
- What will California look like in 2008? The state will have added another 2.5 million people to its population, pushing it close to 40 million people. More than half those new residents will rely heavily on social services. Population growth is the single largest problem facing California—and is completely ignored by Schwarzenegger.
- Following the above bullet point, by 2008 California will be an urban nightmare. Since the mid-1990s, California has 5 million more cars on the road. Three of the five most congested communities are in California---Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and the Inland Empire. Yet California ranks last among the 50 states in spending for traffic related problems.
- California's financial crisis is a smoldering volcano. Although Schwarzenegger used his powers of persuasion to convince voters to pass the $15 billion bond issue in March, using new layer of debt to retire existing liabilities only delays the inevitable crisis.
- The K-12 system is a chronic failure. California spends billions to build new school but still cannot keep up with the need for more classrooms. Yet those who graduate increasingly need remedial courses in the state college system.
- In what could be the beginning of a major problem for California, middle class wage earners are moving out. Spurred on by the strong housing market, frustrated Californians are selling their homes and moving to more affordable locations with a better quality of life.
Schwarzenegger's political future depends in large part about what happens to the once Golden State.
Right now, Schwarzenegger is still on his political honeymoon but it will be over long before 2008 rolls around.
Unless California can turn around virtually every social crisis it faces, Schwarzenegger's hopes for the White House will go down the drain along with the state.
[JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS: One thing clear in Schwarzenegger's brief year as Governor is that he is not going to sign a driver's license bill for illegal aliens.
When Schwarzenegger left California for New York, a wild rumor circulated on the Internet that Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante would take advantage by submitting the bill to the legislature for a vote. That never developed
Instead, two weeks ago when Schwarzenegger returned, he vetoed the bill without hesitation.
Schwarzenegger may be a political rookie. But he has more savvy than his predecessor, Gray Davis, about how Californians feel about licenses for aliens.