Thursday, August 07, 2003

Arnold Decides: What is there to say? All the cheap jokes were used up in the first week of speculation. Arnold immediately took the fight to Davis, making a pre-emptive strike on Davis's natural first move -- to dig up dirt on Arnold.

Let's say the Schwarzenegger team called me and said, "Mr. Schwarzenegger wants advice from you. What are your suggestions?" First: Get McCain into California as quickly and often as possible. Second: Declare that you will accept no more than $1 annually as gubernatorial salary. Third: Be the first to loudly and aggressively challenge Davis to a debate, putting the onus on the Gov to defend himself to the voters. Do this immediately -- it cements you as the presumptive front-runner, not the oddball dark horse, and it helps build the conventional wisdom that Davis can't stand pat, and must make his case. Are there concerns that Davis would get on stage with Arnold and try to policy wonk him to death, to highlight the actor's inexperience? Sure, that's Davis's best bet. But the Bush/Gore debates proved that Americans generally dislike the wonk and like the friendly fellow with the smile. Besides, Davis would be nearly compelled to refuse the debates -- accepting would mean that Davis recognizes Arnold as a politician, not some novelty-act, name-recognition-based vanity candidate.

John Fund has had the smartest commentary on Arnold's decision process. He wrote yesterday:

Almost everyone expects Arnold Schwarzenegger to use his appearance tonight on "The Tonight Show" to explain why he isn't seeking the governorship and then to tout the candidacy of former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan. But what if Arnold makes a last-minute decision to join the race? Those who know his Hollywood negotiating tactics tell journalists he often keeps producers on hold until the last minute and then jumps in with a "total commitment."
This sounds like exactly what happened. To take a stab in the dark, I'll bet he planned it this way. If he had decided not to run, no harm in clamming up for a week. But, lo, he decides to run! In the process, he has set of a media frenzy of speculation, plus he has made himself look thoughtful and serious by taking his time. Another prediction: I think he's a real threat to Davis. Barring unusual developments (say, Arnold decking an Examiner reporter in a hotel lobby, or shooting off an unmistakable "fahhhk yooo" during an appearance at a children's hospital), I think the odd circumstances make him the natural favorite.

More: Lileks:

In any case, it’ll change a few minds about the possibilities of politics. All their life they saw politicians as nothing more than nerdy bloodless grinbots, and now here’s this guy: a giant with a gap-tooth smile smoking a Montecristo the size of Gray Davis’ shinbone. Heck yeah!

Only in America. And I say that as a good thing. Which reminds me: like all typical examples of American craziness, this will just horrify the Europeans.

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