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Legislative Cop?

Apr
28
2005

Last time he was this unpopular, Arnold Schwarzenegger made “Kindergarten Cop.” Think he can find a funny and endearing way to get out from under falling polls, a nasty ad campaign and restore his image as the bi-partisan can-do non-politician?
Probably. But it’s going to take work.
In the most recent issue of The Washington Monthly, the LATimes Mark Barabak takes a look at the gov and comes away pretty unimpressed. Schwarzenegger is in trouble, he says. And it may be permanent.
Barabak is going to enjoy being right – really right – for a couple of weeks now. Because today’s polls show that Gov. Terminator has made a mistake in pissing off the state’s nurses, cops and firefighters. It’s not that his approval rating has sunk to 40 percent, ten points lower than when Barabak was writing, it’s that Schwarzenegger’s disapproval numbers are at 50 percent. That’s dangerous territory.
Some of this could well be that Schwarzenegger’s biggest supporters – moderates in both parties – are off doing what moderates do in off-year elections: Thinking about something besides politics.
But there has always been an ugly, angry side to Schwarzenegger’s devil-may-care charm. It probably feeds his determination and discipline. He does a decent job of hiding – or he has since he decided to be a politician — but it pops out at odd moments. It’s why he feels free to treat women badly or to trash about Democrats as if politics were some kind of intramural dodge ball game. During the Recall campaign that determination was part of Schwarzenegger’s charm, a sort of roue’s attraction that set him apart from the professional politicians. But now that he’s around all the time, the charm is wearing a bit thin; repeated exposure to what might be jocular nastiness in Hollywood where he’s a big money maker or in bodybuilding competitions is giving voters and professional politicians a look at a character who is less than generous.
That doesn’t mean, as Barabak tries not to say but still believes, that Schwarzenegger is out for the count. It’s far too early to make that prediction. Kindergarten Cop was a masterful stroke – one that made the awkward Conan and the threatening Terminator guy look funny and approachable. It gave Schwarzengger’s career a big boost with a group that didn’t know him or, if they did, didn’t like him. What many people like about Schwarzenegger – his self-deprecation, his humor and his willingness not to take himself too seriously – came through vividly in that film which changed the course of his career. And don’t ever forget: this is a man who likes doing things others tell him are impossible and who thrives on being underestimated and written off.
Will the governor back away from the special “reform” election? It’s looking like a distinct possibility. Does this mean the governor is giving up on his ideas to reform the budget? Probably not. But if he gives the Democrats some breathing room on redistricting – which he acknowledged was necessary anyway – he might get the reform he wants through the legislature. Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing and – like Kindgergarten Cop proving he was funny – would show political observers like Barabak that Schwarzengger does understand this governing thing.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 6:01 PM | Permalink

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