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Movie superstar and Republican activist Arnold Schwarzenegger is quietly examining his prospects as a write-in candidate for governor in the November election. Pollsters working for Schwarzenegger’s after-school programs initiative, Proposition 49, interviewed likely California voters last week about a possible Schwarzenegger write-in candidacy.

When the Weekly asked his advisers, who include some of the most senior members of former Governor Pete Wilson‘s political team, to elaborate on the poll and the actor’s goals, they did not have an immediate answer. Eight hours later, Sean Walsh, an adviser to Schwarzenegger‘s initiative, got back with an answer steeped in campaign jargon. ”They did put a poll on there, but it was just cross-tabs to see if an Arnold write-in campaign helped the initiative or if there was any push-back. He has no intention of running.“ Translation: They were polling to see if a Schwarzenegger gubernatorial candidacy helped or hurt the initiative. Analysis: Two problems hamper the campaign’s explanation. First, no one is publicly talking about a Schwarzenegger write-in, so no need to measure push-back, which is campaign-speak for negative reaction to the initiative. Second, if he is not a formal write-in candidate on Election Day, the point is completely moot, since he would not be a candidate.

Schwarzenegger associates are known to believe that Davis is very vulnerable and that Bill Simon Jr. is a leaky vessel in which to invest Republican hopes. A write-in candidacy would be challenging but hardly impossible. He would merely need to file a statement of candidacy accompanied by 100 signatures by October 22.

Interestingly enough, according to one of the voters polled by Schwarzenegger‘s Prop. 49 campaign, one of the questions on the poll asked respondents if they would write in Schwarzenegger’s name for governor if it were made easy for them to do so. (The first Arnold-related question asks if the respondent is familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who isn‘t?) Here is how it could be made easy. His campaign could hire a poll worker for each of the state’s 24,000 polling places to stand outside with pencils and easy instructions on how to write in his name. While many might have trouble remembering exactly how to spell the superstar‘s name, it doesn’t really matter. Anything close to his actual name is allowable under California law.

The prospects of a celebrity entering the race late in the game divided the camps. Governor Gray Davis‘ campaign press secretary, Roger Salazar, crowed: ”The more the merrier.“ However, a senior Democrat, who asked not to be named, was not so sure. ”The two major candidates are so unpopular,“ he said, ”that a Schwarzenegger announcement would produce a tidal wave of publicity and a probable Arnold lead in the polls. Then we’d see if he could hold up to scrutiny for what is left of the campaign.“ Simon‘s campaign made no comment.

Last year, Schwarzenegger was reported to be interested in running against Davis. Then Davis consigliere Garry South began faxing damaging articles around the press about Schwarzenegger’s purported interest in women other than his wife and past steroid use as a world champion bodybuilder. This outraged many of Schwarzenegger‘s colleagues in Hollywood, most of them Democrats, but talk of a 2002 candidacy did come to an end.

A write-in campaign would cost more than $2 million. But we’re talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger. His life is one of the most amazing success stories of recent years. An immigrant professional bodybuilder with a thick Austrian accent was no Hollywood executive‘s choice for stardom. Yet with evident drive and intelligence, Schwarzenegger overcame all obstacles to achieve enormous success. Indeed, with his remarkable string of smart, violent action thrillers in the early and mid-’90s -- Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and True Lies -- he became arguably the biggest movie star in the world.

While his supernova has cooled in recent years, he is incredibly well-compensated. Schwarzenegger reportedly received $25 million in upfront fees for each of his recent films The 6th Day and End of Days and has had lucrative back-end profit participation deals. For next summer‘s anticipated blockbuster, Terminator 3: War of the Machines, he is receiving a reported $30 million fee.

Would Schwarzenegger be substantively prepared for a gubernatorial campaign? That’s hard to say, but advocates backing his after-school programs initiative describe him as very well-informed and committed on education and childhood issues. Schwarzenegger has never run for office, but has campaigned with top Republicans, served as chairman of the first President Bush‘s Council on Physical Fitness, and, intriguingly, is a member of the Kennedy family through his marriage to TV newswoman Maria Shriver.

This would be an audacious move even for someone as bold as Schwarzenegger. A fellow actor describes him as ”a meticulous planner.“ As plans go, this would be a political commando raid, in which much could go wrong in a tumultuous situation. Of course, Schwarzenegger starred in a mid-’80s hit named just that, Commando.

Bill Simon got good news from an L.A. judge last week. But see what Orange County Weekly writer R. Scott Moxley found out about the judge at www.ocweekly.com.

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