'Chameleon' Schwarzenegger Shows Green in Campaign
LOS ANGELES California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Democratic opponents call him a chameleon, changing colors as he seeks re-election in a difficult year for Republicans nationwide.
Last week, the Republican Schwarzenegger was decidedly "green," like the color of his campaign bus, as he struck a deal with the state legislature's Democratic majority to enact a law making California the first U.S. state to cap greenhouse-gas emissions.
In doing so, he snubbed his own party, much of the California business establishment and President Bush, whom Schwarzenegger has accused of doing too little to fight global warming.
With that and other initiatives that have made the former bodybuilder and star of the "Terminator" movies look like a closet Democrat, Schwarzenegger has built a strong lead in the campaign.
A poll released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California gave Schwarzenegger 45 percent of the vote, a 13-point lead over State Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic candidate.
Nationally, the Republicans face losing their majority in Congress as Bush's popularity ratings hover in the high 30 percent range amid voter dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and other issues.
Schwarzenegger backed an increase in California's minimum wage to the highest nationwide and a cut in the cost of prescription drugs -- stealing traditional Democratic issues from Angelides.
After Schwarzenegger and the state's top Democrats announced the greenhouse-gas bill and drew accolades from the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a struggling Angelides was left with little ground to stand on.
Even if Schwarzenegger has distanced himself from Bush's conservative agenda, analysts say he should make amends with core constituents -- conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians.
"Every time he steps toward the middle to grab the moderates, he risks disaffecting these people, not to the point that they will vote for somebody else but just not vote at all," said Larry Gerston, political science professor at San Jose State University.
'AUSTRIAN TEDDY ROOSEVELT'
Schwarzenegger aides reject any idea of "rebranding" the governor after a roller-coaster three years in office, marred by his calling of a special election that backfired in 2005.
"Three years ago, the governor ran as someone who could break the gridlock in Sacramento," said Matthew David, deputy communications director for Schwarzenegger's campaign. "He is someone who has been successful in a bi-partisan fashion."
But San Francisco's Democratic Mayor Gavin Newsom called Schwarzenegger a "chameleon" and told the San Francisco Chronicle that "by no means has he shown leadership on those issues. ... He's been reactive."
The Austrian immigrant has always defied political convention, even when he married Maria Shriver, a member of the country's leading Democratic clan, the Kennedys.
Early speculation on his presidential prospects faded in the face of a constitutional requirement that the U.S. president be native-born.
Schwarzenegger's staff maintains he is a Republican, opposed to tax increases and committed to his party.
Conservationists have praised his pro-environment agenda and called him "very green for a Republican," even if he personally championed the use of the gas-guzzling Hummer vehicles in his movie star days.
Joe Mathews, author of "The People's Machine: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Rise of Blockbuster Democracy," said the governor hopes to emulate the conservation achievements of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, a fellow Republican.
"He wants to be the ultimate pro-business governor and he thinks he's the Austrian Teddy Roosevelt, too, and that's classic Schwarzenegger," Mathews said.