Schwarzenegger’s Swoon

SCHWARZENEGGER’S SWOON….Our cover story for May is a profile of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s not doing so well these days, and LA Times reporter Mark Barabak tells us why:

It may be the contradictions are finally catching up with Schwarzenegger. After campaigning as the scourge of special interests and vowing to take money from no one, the governor has collected political cash at a ravenous pace, raising more than $30 million since taking office.
(Invitations to a recent Sacramento fundraiser, ?An Evening With Governor Schwarzenegger,? blithely offered access at four levels, starting at $10,000 for a ticket and one photograph and topping out at $100,000 for a seat at the head table.)

….Worse, perhaps, for a governor so image-obsessed has been his decline in public opinion surveys, which has been almost entirely a function of Democratic and independent defections. (Like President Bush, Schwarzenegger continues to enjoy near universal support among Republicans despite his disdain for party-building.) By late February, his approval number in the statewide Field Poll was a decidedly mortal 55 percent, down 10 points in five months. More galling still, the governor’s rating stood a tick below that of the rejected Davis before the bottom fell out for the beleaguered Democrat amid the 2001 California energy fiasco.

It’s actually even worse than that. Pretty much all of Schwarzenegger’s highly touted initiatives are in trouble. He wanted to gut California’s public pension program but was forced to cave in on that a few weeks ago. Redistricting reform was a centerpiece of his State of the State speech earlier this year, but yesterday he as much as admitted he couldn’t make it happen. His proposal for merit pay for teachers is dead in the water, and teachers and nurses have run an astonishingly effective ad campaign accusing him ? correctly ? of reneging on his promises of a year ago. Indian tribes are all over TV too, complaining about his plans to tax hardworking tribe members. The result? His latest approval ratings are down to 40%.

So how did this happen? Part of it is due to arrogance and an unwillingness to work with a heavily Democratic legislature, but I suspect a bigger part is that Schwarzenegger has no real governing principles he could fall back on when things got tough. Instead, he’s a guy who’s good at backslapping and has a hodgepodge of unrelated populist ideas he thought he could pass by sheer force of personality. When he turned out to be wrong, he was stuck. He has no coherent message he can sell to the public and no real core support except for rich businessmen. When he fell, there was no one to catch him.

Read the whole story for more.

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