It’s been lost in all the coverage of the presidential campaign, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s approval rating in California has plummeted again. In the most recent poll, taken in September, only 38 percent of Californians had a favorable opinion of the governor.
This puts Schwarzenegger’s unpopularity within range of the 35 percent approval rating he received in 2006. He won reelection the next year by swinging wildly to the left, and by filling his campaign with Democrats — as well as at least one Bush-Rove operative, Steve Schmidt, who has become infamous this year as the mastermind of John McCain’s campaign.
Speaking of which, it appears that Schwarzenegger’s movie star appeal outside California has lost its luster, too. On Thursday, he appeared with John McCain at a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, and even with the combined billing of California’s movie star governor and the putative next leader of the free world, the venue was only filled to half its capacity:
[The appearance of McCain and Schwarzenegger] at Nationwide Arena drew what was a large crowd for McCain, but about half the arena was empty. Four years ago when Schwarzenegger campaigned in the same venue for Bush, the arena was packed to capacity with about 20,000 people.
One trait Schwarzenegger shares with George Bush is a sense of humor that relies heavily on locker-room towel-snapping:
Schwarzenegger long has sponsored an annual bodybuilding competition in Columbus, and he joked that he hoped to invite Obama next time because “he needs to do something with those skinny legs.”
“We’re going to make him do some squats, and then we’re going to give him some biceps curls to beef up those scrawny little arms. But if you only could do something about putting some meat on his ideas,” Schwarzenegger said.
McCain and Schwarzenegger won’t be campaigning together in California, because the last three statewide polls show McCain losing to Barack Obama by jaw-droppingly large margins — 27, 23 and 22 percentage points.
There has been some good news lately for Schwarzenegger in California, however. The prison guard’s union — reputedly the most powerful union in the state, which, if so, is an ugly sign of the times — has dropped its effort to recall the governor next year. Last month, the language for the recall petition they submitted was rejected by the secretary of state, a Democrat, because of technical issues. The union decided not to refile the petition language, but rather to let Schwarzenegger twist in the wind until he is term-limited out of office in 2010.