The Skinny

Milling around the lobby of the Denver Sheraton, there is a never-ending sea of humanity. In every corner of this hotel, where the California delegation is holed up this week, a politician is being button-holed and interviewed, grabbed by a fawning admirer or an old friend. This is a no-holes-barred schmoozapalooza, where emerging political talents in the party are treated like rock stars. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as his entourage cause a stir whenever they walk in. Cameras cue up for a piece of Gavin Newsom. If politics is really showbiz for ugly people, this is the Cannes Film Festival. Inside the convention hall, everyone from Spike Lee to Charles Barkley is there, getting their own moment in the political spotlight. And the longer one is in this bubble of political pageantry it just seems so abundantly clear – this is Arnold Schwarzenegger's native habitat. Perhaps not here in Denver (though you might be able to make the case he'd be more comfortable in a room full of Democrats than Republicans), but the political conventions in general. He would set Minneapolis ablaze. Schwarzenegger seems to get a rush by sucking the oxygen out of every room he walks in. Those of us who've lived with him for five years now may be somewhat immune to the effect, but it's tangible and undeniable – he's one of the biggest stars in the world, and people react accordingly. And though not even we are cynical enough to think the budget stalemate is a legislative ploy to keep Gov. Schwarzenegger off the national stage in Minneapolis next week, where Republicans will gather for their convention, you can't help but wonder if it's not at least a little incentive for some of the governor's Democratic and Republican legislative rivals.

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