If He’s Going To Do It, Now Is The Time

OpinionJournal: Total Recall–III: His advisers say Arnold Schwarzenegger will run for governor.
If Arnold doesn’t run for governor of California now, he’s crazy, or he just doesn’t want the job. True, he will inherit a budget mess and California’s debt is now near junk status.

Even so, this is the time to run if he’s going to. Gray Davis has a popularity rating in the low 20’s. While trying to fix the budget mess, Arnold will make a lot of enemies among lobbyists and advocacy groups, but if he succeeds he’ll be hard to beat in 2006.

He’s a middle-of-the-road Republican with liberal social views and fiscally conservative views. He’s also an admirer of Milton Friedman, whom I admire. If I were a Californian I’d vote for him.

The recall of Gov. Gray Davis is heading for a fall election. “It’ll be covered like a mini-presidential race,” says GOP consultant Joe Shumate–and watched like a thriller movie. Part of the reason will be Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, his campaign advisers believe, will be running–or starring, to put it in Hollywood idiom, in a political sequel to his “Total Recall.”

Few people are more disciplined and better at marketing themselves than Mr. Schwarzenegger. “He will run as a Republican, but his campaign may feel like a third-party insurgency,” says Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Weintraub. Ironically, for a macho star of movies like “Terminator 3,” he must solidify skeptical conservatives behind him. They will question his more liberal social views and wonder if he can really change the state’s anti-business mentality.

Mr. Schwarzenegger needs conservatives because, should Mr. Davis be recalled, the new governor will be whoever wins a plurality of the vote in the simultaneous election to succeed him. He has assembled the team behind former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson’s four statewide wins. They’ve hired 50 people and a preliminary campaign budget is $35 million. Mr. Wilson is bullish on the race saying, “Arnold has a total focus and clarity of vision that would impress voters.” He needs the vision: Rep. Darrell Issa, 2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon, and State Sen. Tom McClintock could all run by appealing to conservatives, making the election of a late-entry Democrat possible.

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