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July 6, 2006
Governator Will Be Back?

Supposedly written off after a disastrous special election torpedoed his referendums, Arnold Schwarzenegger appears ready to utter his famous movie line to Californians this November. New polling shows that the Governator has moved out of a virtual tie with Democratic challenger Phil Angelides to a seven-point lead, all of which came from undecided voters:

The former movie star moved further ahead of State Treasurer Phil Angelides -- who won the Democratic nomination for governor in March -- with a 44 percent to 37 percent lead in the Survey and Policy Research Institute's June 26-30 poll.

That was up from a 40 percent to 37 percent margin in March. The survey attributed Schwarzenegger's surge to his decision to send California national guard troops to the Mexican border in the fight against illegal immigrants, as well as the adoption of a compromise state budget.

Initially, Schwarzenegger had captured the imagination of Californians during the rare recall election, easily beating Cruz Bustamante for the top job. He extended his approval ratings to the mid-60s before he stumbled badly in 2005. He insisted on holding an expensive special election to push complicated budget reforms in direct elections, bypassing a chronically dysfunctional legislature. He ignored advice to avoid the contradiction of staging a special election that cost tens of millions of dollars in order to solve a budget problem, and it cost him dearly. His approval ratings sank like a rock, and his political opponents smelled blood in the water.

However, Arnold has quietly rebuilt his political capital, at least enough to put himself into a position of strength for November. He had to conduct a complete political campaign for the first time, and he has performed better than most people would have thought; his prior win was widely credited to the highly compressed time frame of the recall election. It helped that the Democrats nominated Phil Angelides, a colorless machine politician who cannot hope to challenge the Governator for personal attraction and charisma.

The Democrats must wonder what hit them. Given Arnold's political difficulties, Angelides could not have calculated on falling behind this early in the race. It looks like the Governator has built some momentum while Angelides stands still. He's sending an early message: He'll be bock.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 6, 2006 7:30 PM

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