GOP Leaders Keep Quiet on Schwarzenegger Candidacy

Posted August 11, 2003 at 3:36pm

While his 14-letter surname and Hollywood celebrity may dominate California’s gubernatorial recall ballot, the Congressional leadership has not been quick to jump on the Arnold Schwarzenegger bandwagon.

Although Schwarzenegger bested all possible successors to popularity-challenged Gov. Gray Davis (D) in a recent poll, Republican leaders in Congress have been mostly mum since the actor threw his hat into the ring last week.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has not endorsed the “Terminator” and probably will not, according to a spokesman, Stuart Roy.

Neither has Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) or Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

Calls to those two offices were not immediately returned Monday, so it is unclear if either Hastert or Frist will back Schwarzenegger closer to the Oct. 7 recall election.

The movie star is one of nearly 125 Californians vying to replace Davis if he is removed from the office he was just re-elected to last year.

In recent polls, Davis’ popularity has dipped as low as 27 percent. In the most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 64 percent of voters said Davis should be ejected while the star who once played “Conan the Barbarian” has a “good” or “very good” chance of being the candidate of choice for 42 percent of voters.

Schwarzenegger was given a boost over the weekend when President Bush told reporters that the movie star would make a good governor. Officially, however, the White House remains neutral in the recall election.

But other GOP Members of Congress have wholeheartedly endorsed Schwarzenegger.

The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of moderate Republicans, backed him Friday.

“Main Street believes that Schwarzenegger will provide the strongest leadership and the wherewithal to terminate California’s budget crisis,” said Rep. Doug Ose (R-Calif.), a board member.

House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) is also backing the Hollywood action star.

By contrast, other GOPers, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who got the recall effort off the ground by bankrolling the petition drive, have not backed anyone.

A number of Republicans, such as Bill Simon, who lost to Davis last year by only 364,000 votes, will also be on the ballot, which may explain the more conservative Republicans’ reticence to back the moderate, pro-choice Schwarzenegger.

Issa took his name out of the running to replace Davis on Wednesday, saying only that he was happy that there were other strong candidates in the field.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed the body-builder-turned actor’s campaign as part of a conservative plot.

“With the candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger, we now have ‘the Terminator meets the Exterminator,’” she said in a release. “This is clearly an extension of Congressman Tom DeLay’s extreme Republican agenda to undermine Democratic values, using a familiar public face to promote poisonous policies that favor special interests over the public interest.”