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Short Takes: The Schwarzenegger Effect

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval ratings are in the pits.

A new Field poll in California showed that just one in four voters approve of the job Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, his lowest rating in the six years since he took office following the recall of then Gov. Gray Davis (D).

Just 27 percent of Californians approve of how Schwarzenegger is handling his duties while a whopping 65 percent disapprove -- a stunning turnaround from September 2004 when Schwarzenegger was riding high off of the recall and his winning campaign with two-thirds of voters approving of the job he was doing.

In fact, Schwarzenegger's current job approval numbers are the second lowest of the last six California governors as measured by the Field poll -- eclipsed only by the 22 percent approval rating for Davis in August 2003. (Fascinating fact: the lowest Republican Gov. George Deukmejian's approval score got was 53 percent!)

The decline and fall of Schwarzenegger as governor has potential implications in the race to succeed him.

Meg Whitman (R) is running for governor as a quasi-celebrity candidate thanks to her immense personal wealth and high national profile as a result of the decade she spent atop eBay.

While Whitman downplays the "celebrity" nature of her candidacy, it is a bid built -- at least in part -- on the fact that she is a known name in the state and nationally.

Given Schwarzenegger's struggles, California voters may well be less likely to go with outsider candidate with no governing experience to run their state in 2010 than they might have been four or eight years ago when they ousted the ultimate bureaucrat (Davis) in favor of a Hollywood celebrity.

State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, one of the candidates challenging Whitman in the Republican primary, is already trying to tie Whitman to Schwarzenegger. "California has had enough of celebrity candidates who think they can buy the race," said Poizner, who is personally wealthy and putting his money into the race, during a recent interview with the Fix.

If Poizner's theory is right, the beneficiary could well be former Rep. Tom Campbell (R), the low-key Congressman who is hoping to shoot the gap created by a warring Whitman and Poizner.

The more competitive Campbell is, the more the shadow of Schwarzenegger will loom over the proceedings.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 13, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Short Takes  
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Next: Fix Poll: McCain Wins! (Sort of)


Something else that's funny: Arnold is really a "short" take ; )

Posted by: JakeD | October 14, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I think Poizner may well be in a great position to win this election. He's a proven statewide vote getting in Cali. and is currently the state Inusurance Commissioner. Campbell has ties to Arnold's administration and Meg Whitman is in the mold of Schwarzanegger: a celebrity type with no political experience. Poizner has success in business & politics, as well as winning a statewide election. I like Poizner's chances here.

Posted by: reason5 | October 14, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"They need to get rid of that 2/3 majority referendum thing."

There's no way to have political accountability with a minority veto.

Posted by: nodebris | October 14, 2009 1:13 AM | Report abuse

Ahnold is in trouble because there's no money to run the state. Period.


They need to get rid of that 2/3 majority referendum thing. The idea that civic illiterates could have veto power because of some Reagan-era immaturity about taxes has clearly been discredited and needs to go.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | October 13, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Arnold's the best. Incredible performance as Dutch in "Predator."

"Nut" Meg of ebay can't hold a candle to Aaaaah-nold. I may reassess if Meg pays me back for those "five vintage automatic watches" that didn't work. Or the "great Ray-Bans" that were 35 years old, not to mention...kiddies size. Or the "nifty minispeakers" that didn't work. Or the "powerful miniamp" that couldn't drive a 2 transistor radio.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | October 13, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Meg Whitman is running on her amazing record running eBay. She has governing experience running a successful company (something that is far more valuable than being an unaccountable government bureaucrat). Your post tries to make it seem like she has no pertinent experience. Arnold had no experience like that before becoming governor. Your comparison is really just unfair.

Posted by: columbiaheights | October 13, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Knew Poizner was Insurance Commissioner for a couple years, but didn't know about his White House background. Guess the White House background in Bush Administration could be a plus in the California primary, though it would be a clear minus in the General. Perhaps Poizner can win the nomination, but Campbell is clearly the Republicans' best shot to retain the Governorship. Sounds like Poizner will be positioning himself as the most conservative candidate in the field, while Whitman is the big business candidate trying to buy the nomination, and Campbell is the "electability" candidate.

I hold to the view that Whitman is a lightweight and is unelectable. Her campaign inexperience is already showing.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 13, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse


Do you listen to John & Ken on KFI 640 AM?

Posted by: JakeD | October 13, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

The problem with California is not of Arnold's making. If you want to find the reasons look no further than the Democratic State government who are all on the government union payroll. These idiots have gifted government unions such things as 100% pay on retirement starting at age 53 (a Moraga firefighter retired at age 52 recently and his annual retirement salary is $251,000.00 per year plus medical).

The second issue are the unsustainable hand-outs and welfare to illegals. San Francisco, a sanctuary city, passed a law last year to give illegals id's so they could sign up for benefits. Estimated cost 80 to 100 million from the broke city by the bay.

Until these two issues are resolved the State is bankrupt. Next year there is an anticipated shortfall in the government unions pension plans, guaranteed by the taxpayers, that is estimated to be 60 billion. Wait until these idiots try and close that gap.

The City of Vallejo had to go to bankruptcy court to get shed of the government union burdens. The State Legislatures response, try and pass a law to make it more difficult for cities and their citizens to go to bankruptcy court. This was proposed by the firefighters union and passed the Legislature but is now hung up.

The only good news in this is that due to the economy the government unions have had to lay over over 30 State Legislatures.

Want to see the most bankrupt States in the Country. Easy look for Democratic controlled State governments with large government unions. California, New Jersey, New York, Conn., Mass.,...

If you want to see how your State is doing here is a good start:

The parasitic relationship between government and government unions attaching to the host taxpayer has to be severed. Maybe ban political contributions from government unions who use taxpayer funds, who knows but it has to stop.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | October 13, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse


Poizner has no "political experience" as California Insurance Commissioner?! From 2001 to 2002, Poizner served as a White House Fellow where he worked in the National Security Council Office of Cyberspace Security, serving as Director of Critical Infrastructure Protection. In this capacity he developed strategies for protecting critical infrastructure against cyber-terrorism and developed an emergency communications plan for national security and emergency response personnel.

Starting only one week before the September 11, 2001 attacks, Poizner was responsible for issues such as emergency communications planning and eventually pulled off the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and protecting Internet, banking system and power grids from cyber attacks.

In 2004, Poizner ran unsuccessfully for the California State Assembly against Democrat Ira Ruskin, a Redwood City Councilman, in the 21st district, losing by 5,884 votes out of 190,120 votes cast in 2004.

In 2006, Poizner ran for the office of California Insurance Commissioner. He ran unopposed in the Republican primary on June 6, and won the general election on November 7 by defeating Democrat Cruz Bustamante, then Lieutenant Governor of California, by a 12.4% margin.

In late 2007 Poizner led the effort to defeat Proposition 93, a term limit removal initiative. As Chairman of the No on 93 campaign, Poizner contributed $2.5 million of his own money, secured No on 93 endorsements from over forty newspaper editorial boards, and appeared on talk radio across the state. Proposition 93 was defeated by 54% to 46% on February 5, 2008.

In May 2009, Poizner successfully campaigned against Proposition 1A during the May Special Election in California. Proposition 1A was defeated by a margin of 65.6% to 34.4% on May 26, 2009.

Posted by: JakeD | October 13, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Campbell is actually the only Republican with a real shot at winning the General, and actually scares Democrats because he can win. He is an environmental and social liberal who is a fiscal conservative/deficit hawk-type with some innovative ideas and well-versed on the issues. While he tends to be a free marketer on most economic issues, he is a policy wonk/problem-solver with some policy ideas that would be regarded as moderate/centrist or even slightly liberal.

Campbell can probably best be characterized as a politician who attempts to achieve liberal ends through conservative means. He is sort of an odd cross between a Jack Kemp Republican and a George Miller/Henry Waxman/Barney Frank Democrat with elements of each. And he has a proven voting record in Congress, and has been circulating his ideas and really thinking about tough issues for over 20 years. His one issue weakness where he really has little policy background would be education though he is a Law Professor so probably has some ideas there.

Poizner and Whitman have no political experience, and as Chris notes, the California electorate may want someone with a political/policy record rather than another rich "personality."

As I said before, Campbell is the candidate who scares California Democrats for two reasons:
1. If nominated he could win, and
2. He actually might do a good job as Governor.

Whitman is a lightweight and would be easy fodder in the General. Haven't seen enough yet of Poizner to know for sure, but doubt he is electable either.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | October 13, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The laws of California are the cause of its intractable economic problems. 2/3rd's majority to get anything done is a slow cumbersome formula designed to fail and ill suited to today's fast moving times and problems. Gov. Schwarzenegger is a business man and knows how to put things in motion collectively. The tyranny of the masses rule applies here with his board of directors, the legislature, having absolute veto power over everything.

Posted by: rshirk | October 13, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Ahnold is in trouble because there's no money to run the state. Period.

Posted by: mikenmidland | October 13, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

How much would we have to pay Mexico to take California ? Send Mexico some stimulus money.

Posted by: wasaUFO | October 13, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

What's with you and Tom Campbell lately?

Posted by: JakeD | October 13, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

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