The Web     
Powered by
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Schwarzenegger Ready For Prime Time?

Aired August 8, 2003 - 20:01   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He went straight from his announcement on "The Tonight Show" to all the major media markets. But is Arnold Schwarzenegger ready for prime time as a political candidate?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Do your job for the people and do it well. Or, otherwise, you're out. Hasta la vista, baby.



MATT LAUER, HOST: I said California has the nation's only paid family leave law. Businesses are opposed to it. Would you repeal it as governor?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I will have to get into that, because, as you know, I'm very much for families and very much for children and children's issues and all that stuff.



QUESTION: What is your plan to cut the state budget?

SCHWARZENEGGER: We will have a plan very soon, a detailed plan on how to face those kind of problems and how to solve those kind of problems.



SCHWARZENEGGER: I can promise you that, when I go to Sacramento, I will pump up Sacramento.


JAY LENO, HOST: Arnold, thank you, buddy.


BLITZER: I'm joined now by the man whose ad campaigns turned obscure law professor Paul Wellstone into a United States senator and helped turn pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura into a governor, the media analyst Bill Hillsman. Also joining us here in New York, the political consultant Kieran Mahoney.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Bill, first to you. What do you think of his media strategy so far, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that is?

BILL HILLSMAN, MEDIA ANALYST: Well, you're starting to see the pluses and the minuses to it. The pluses are that he can get a camera any time he wants to. The minuses are, when he starts to be asked some pretty tough questions about substance, maybe he isn't ready for prime time yet.

BLITZER: What does he have to do, Kieran, to get himself ready on the substance, because you know that the reporters are going to be pressing and pressing and pressing for details?

KIERAN MAHONEY, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I think that the reporters are not going to win the day here. I think he's got a honeymoon period. It will probably last a couple of weeks. And I think he's got to put out what he's going to do about the budget, the major issues in California, and not much more than that. He's got to remember, his audience is not the reporters. It is the voters at home.

BLITZER: If you were putting together a media campaign, an ad campaign, Bill, for him, what would you be stressing?

HILLSMAN: Well, I think he's trying to get to it.

It is basically populism. You have to remember the environment out there. People are mad. This is a historic occasion. In the Ventura campaign, we basically had to cultivate that. We had to recognize it. That's not the case here. People are mad. They're demanding some changes.

BLITZER: Kieran, can you take his weaknesses and make them look like strengths?

MAHONEY: Absolutely.

I think that Jesse Ventura did exactly that. This was a guy who wasn't schooled in government who became the governor of Minnesota by representing change. And I think the biggest thing that Schwarzenegger has going for him is Gray Davis, the incumbent governor. And if it is seen as a Davis vs. Schwarzenegger fight, I think that he could be the next governor very easily.

BLITZER: But, Kieran, if a lot of people start thinking Jesse Ventura, as opposed to, let's say, Ronald Reagan, that could be bad news for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

MAHONEY: Well, Ventura did win the race in Minnesota. And my reaction is that this is a perfect kind of Republican for a California general election. He's fiscally conservative, socially tolerant. Those are the kind of candidates that have done well, kind of right out of central casting, if you will, in both the Northeast and on the West Coast for the Republican Party. And I think Schwarzenegger is well positioned for this election.

BLITZER: What about that compassionate libertarian slogan that some have described him as, not necessarily a compassionate conservative, a compassionate libertarian? Bill, what do you make of that?

HILLSMAN: Well, that's very much how Jesse Ventura was. And it plays very well in a populist type of campaign.

I think there is one big difference, though. Jesse came from a third party aspect or an independent aspect. Arnold is coming from the Republican Party. And that makes things a little bit tougher.

BLITZER: And if you were going to go -- go back to your playbook for Paul Wellstone or Jesse Ventura, would you have some fun with those ad campaigns?

HILLSMAN: I think you have to have some fun with Arnold, but it can't be too much. There is a tipping point there, where it just becomes exploitative. And without the substance, without the credibility that he can, in fact, govern, it will be a problem for him.

BLITZER: Very quickly to both of you, Kieran first.

Can Arnold Schwarzenegger really win and become the next governor of California?

MAHONEY: I believe that he has as good a chance as anyone in the field right now.

BLITZER: Bill, you agree?

HILLSMAN: I think he's got a good chance. I'll be surprised if he does win, though.

BLITZER: Why would you be surprised?

HILLSMAN: Because I think there's going to be people out there that have more substance, that have thought about this more, that are maybe better prepared. And I also think he's not going to get quite so much a free ride from the press.

BLITZER: Bill Hillsman, Kieran Mahoney, thanks to both of you for joining us.

Who else might enter the race? And are we about to have a rash of recalls nationwide?

I'm joined here by CNN political analyst and "L.A. Times" national political correspondent Ron Brownstein.

Ron, first of all, do you agree with that assessment we just heard?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought that was a lot of really good analysis there from both of them.

Look, this is Arnold Schwarzenegger's best chance of being governor probably that he'll ever have, two reasons, Wolf. One, it would be very hard for him, as a pro-choice Republican, to make it through a Republican primary. That's been the problems Republicans have had. It is a socially moderate to liberal state. They have a very social conservative primary. It has been hard for a candidate who could win a general election to get through to that point.

The recall process allows Schwarzenegger to circumvent that and go directly to the voters. Secondly, with a lot of candidates on the ballot, he may be able to win with a very low number, if Gray Davis in fact is recalled.


BLITZER: He just needs a plurality.


BROWNSTEIN: And he may need a small plurality, depending on how divided this election becomes.

And with his name I.D. and money and all this media attention, he probably has a pretty high floor in this race. Now, whether he can go much above that, I think that's going to be the big question for the next few months.

BLITZER: President Bush on vacation in Crawford, Texas, was asked to weigh in earlier today on this. Listen to how the president reacted when he asked about Arnold Schwarzenegger.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is fascinating to see who is in and who's out. And, yes, I think he would be a good governor.


BROWNSTEIN: Now, the White House had a pretty bad experience last year, when they tried to encouraged Dick Riordan to be the nominee. And, of course, he lost in the primary to Bill Simon Jr.

They have, I think, been very resolute about wanting to stay out of this. There's some enthusiasm, I think, in Republican circles for having Bush identify with Schwarzenegger. But I they're going to be very cautious, both because they don't want to get involved in an internecine Republican fight if Simon is back in the race, and, secondly, because there is ambivalence at the national Republican level about whether Bush himself would be better off in 2004 with an unpopular Gray Davis still in office, rather than a Republican dealing with the same problems.

BLITZER: Now, there are a couple Democrats, already, Cruz Bustamante, that's already in, the lieutenant of governor of California, among others. But who else possibly, between now and the deadline, which is Saturday, might throw his or her hat in the ring?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the big question is -- the candidate who lost to Gray Davis last fall, Bill Simon, may come back. All signs are that he is coming back into the race tomorrow. That's a blow to Schwarzenegger, because it divides up that Republican vote.

The big question will be whether any other Democrat gets in. At the moment, it looks like the answer is no. But there is anxiety, a lot of anxiety, a lot of division in Democratic circles. A lot of Democrats wanted no other Democrat to get in. With Bustamante and Garamendi in, there is some desire for a bigger name. So I think this is going to go right up to the wire, with a lot of machinations in the last 24 hours.

BLITZER: Garamendi, the insurance commissioner.

BROWNSTEIN: John Garamendi, former Clinton administration official.

BLITZER: But what about Dianne Feinstein, the senator, who everybody -- at least a lot of people -- thought had a lock if she would have thrown her hat in the ring? She's not doing that, by all accounts.

BROWNSTEIN: She says no.

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, the Democratic leader in the House.

BROWNSTEIN: The rumors continue. I would be surprised to see her do that. But the congressional party, the congressional Democrats, have been the driving force, really, in saying that: We need someone else in the race. So who knows where they may go.

BLITZER: We've got to leave it right there. Ron Brownstein of "The L.A. Times," you're going to be busy over these next two months.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BROWNSTEIN: All right.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.