Only hours after California voters had selected his Democratic opponent. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger began barnstorming the state in a bus tour that took him from Eureka to Auburn.
“Today is the first day of the campaign,” said a beaming Schwarzenegger, atop a chair in a packed Chico restaurant.
In four whistle-stops across northern California, Schwarzenegger previewed the likely themes of his reelection campaign: his no-tax pledge, reforming workers’ compensation, the state’s recovering economy, and his ability to work across party lines.
“The other side is talking about the future,” Schwarzenegger told a 200-strong crowd in Redding. “We are building the future. The other side is talking about all the problems California has. We are solving the problems.”
On his first day on the campaign trail Schwarzenegger tried to plant himself firmly on California’s political middle ground. At every stop, he touted his ability to work with Democrats, most recently negotiating a bipartisan infrastructure bond package that will appear on the fall ballot. Schwarzenegger even hinted that, if reelected, expanding healthcare to cover all Californians–long a Democratic priority–would be a centerpiece of his 2007 agenda.
“All of the things we have accomplished since I have come into office is because I was able to bring Democrats and Republicans together,” Schwarzenegger said in Chico.
Gone is the partisan warrior that trekked across the state for last year’s failed special election campaign–angering Democrats and incurring the wrath of well-heeled unions that spent upwards of $100 million to defeat his reform proposals.
Also gone are the hand-selected crowds of last year–anyone was free to attend the public events, though Schwarzenegger’s appearance in GOP heartland of Redding, Chico and Auburn ensured a warm reception, though a half-dozen shouting Angelides supporters greeted the governor in Chico. Word of the events was spread, on short notice, through local Republican clubs and central committees as well as other local media outlets.
By starting the campaign in California’s more remote, oft-ignored political regions, Schmidt said the campaign is sending a message.
“We wanted to send a signal today that by starting in the north, there is not one inch of this state [we will ignore].” he said.
Dressed in a casual gray blazer, a button-up white short-sleeve shirt and khaki pants, Schwarzenegger emerged at each event from a newly decorated bus, emblazoned in bright green with an expansive Yosemite landscape. The new campaign slogan, “Protecting the California Dream,” is plastered on three sides of the bus.
Around noon, Schwarzenegger spoke briefly with his newly nominated Democratic opponent state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who was taking a victory lap across the state from Los Angeles to San Diego to Oakland. Schwarzenegger campaign manager Steve Schmidt characterized the 5-minute call as amicable, saying that Schwarzenegger congratulated Angelides on the primary victory and wished him luck in the campaign.
Well-wishing aside, Team Schwarzenegger wasted no time in putting the movie-star governor back in the spotlight after the conclusion of a bitter Democratic primary. The campaign bus tour will continue tomorrow and there will be more events in southern California over the weekend. Schwarzenegger aides declined to say whether the campaign would be buying television time this week.
On the results of the Democratic primary, Schwarzenegger said he did not care who his opponent was. He added that he was saddened to see the record-low turnout, spurred by negative advertising, and hoped for a fall campaign that focused “on the issues,” though he stopped short of making a clean campaign pledge.
One difference that Schwarzenegger is already highlighting between himself and Angelides–whom he did not identify by name–is taxes. Angelides has made raising taxes on California millionaires and corporations to fully fund schools a centerpiece of his campaign.
“They are not really in touch with what the people want,” Schwarzenegger said of Democrats, including Angelides, who backed Proposition 82, the tax-raising preschool measure that lost by a 20 percent margin this week. “I say no to taxes