View From Lodi, CA: President Schwarzenegger—Maybe

California Governor

Arnold Schwarzenegger
wowed the New York audience
during his

at the Republican National Convention late
last month.

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

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 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

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

    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.

  • 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.

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.

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.

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. 

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the

Lodi News-Sentinel