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How Much From Special Interests?

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CBS-TV Evening News
May 01, 2005 - 01:00 AM

by ANCHOR: JOHN ROBERTS - REPORTER: SANDRA HUGHES

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's leadership being tested in California

JOHN ROBERTS, anchor: Well, another charismatic leader is being tested. In the movies, he never lost a battle, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is discovering Hollywood and the real world are quite different. Sandra Hughes reports Californians may not be ready to say `hasta la vista, baby' just yet, but the governor clearly is struggling to remain the leading man.

SANDRA HUGHES reporting:  As a movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger may have been used to the sting of box office critics, but as California's governor he might be downright bruised by recent protests.

Mr. JAMIE COURT (Consumer Rights Advocate): I've seen these protests build from 20 people to 6,000 people in San Francisco. I think they've shattered his ego.

HUGHES: In January, it was an optimistic governor who unveiled an outsized political agenda, privatized the state's pension system, drastically cut the state's bureaucracy, capped the budget.

Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): We need 600,000 valid signatures for each one of those reforms.

HUGHES: As a man of the people, he even threatened a special election in November to force his agenda.

Mr. COURT: He was very arrogant in believing that his power was going directly to the people.

HUGHES: To tighten the budget, he's taking on powerful organized unions. He lifted rules that essentially forced nurses to work more for the same pay, then he had to face them.

Gov. SCHWARZENEGGER: Those are the special interests, you know. But you know something? They cannot stop me.

HUGHES: It didn't stop there. He also called the teachers' union a special interest and fought firefighters who opposed the pension plan.

Mr. BRUCE CAIN (Political Science Professor): It's ironic that the term 'special interest', which used to mean wealthy interests, is being turned against police, fire and nurses who are people that aren't very wealthy.

HUGHES: This week outside the Santa Monica restaurant he owns, students staged a rowdy mock graduation to protest education cuts. Although the governor wasn't at this protest, some say as events like this grow in size, they are having an impact.

Polling numbers tell the rest of the story, a 20-point drop in Schwarzenegger's approval rating since January, and his initiatives have faltered.

(Graphic on screen)

Public Policy Institute of California Poll

Approval Rating
January 60%
April 40%

Margin of Error +/- 2 pts

HUGHES: But the tough guy's terminated enemies before. Even some of his opponents say, 'Don't count him out.'

Sandra Hughes, CBS News, Los Angeles.





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