Gov. Keeps the Spotlight On
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face towered over Times Square on Monday from video panels covering several stories of a skyscraper, relaying his image as he presided inside over the morning opening of the Nasdaq stock market.
He used the occasion, televised nationwide on cable finance networks, to plug his efforts against global warming, then strutted out of Nasdaq’s building and into traffic on Broadway. Amid zooming cabs and stunned passersby taking snapshots with their phones, he posed for news cameras, then climbed into a black Suburban that vanished in a swirl of police sirens as he raced to media stops with New York’s mayor and governor.
Week by week, Schwarzenegger has grown increasingly bold about using his Hollywood stardom to advance his prospects for reelection Nov. 7. He marked the fifth anniversary of 9/11 live during the season opener of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” His recent visits with the Dalai Lama and British Prime Minister Tony Blair made the front pages. He campaigned last week on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”
So how exactly can his Democratic rival, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, compete with that?
A faltering answer came at his sidewalk protest outside NBC’s Burbank studios last week, where Angelides demanded equal time on Leno’s show. “I know I’d be fun,” Angelides said from behind a lectern after two dozen supporters chanted “Let Phil on! Let Phil on!”
For all the griping among Democrats over strategic missteps by Angelides, his struggle to match Schwarzenegger’s media exposure demonstrates how impediments outside his control -- not the least of which is celebrity -- have also thwarted his campaign to unseat the governor.
Among them are the very contours of the race: Running against an incumbent, Angelides must strike a balance between introducing himself to voters in an appealing way and criticizing Schwarzenegger at the same time -- essential, but often contradictory, tasks. Day after day, he describes Schwarzenegger as a tool of oil, tobacco and drug companies, but with a smile that clashes with his words.
“It is very difficult to be tough-negative and a nice guy at the same time,” said Steve Smith, one of the campaign strategists who helped former Gov. Gray Davis market his notoriously wooden personality at the same time he was trashing opponents.
Also stacked against Angelides are campaign money restrictions that favor incumbents, whose government power attracts contributions, and wealthy candidates, whose personal spending is unlimited.
“Phil has been on the short end of both of those things,” said Angelides strategist Bill Carrick, alluding to Schwarzenegger and state Controller Steve Westly, who spent $35 million of his dot-com fortune on his Democratic primary campaign against Angelides.
Schwarzenegger has out-raised Angelides by almost 2 to 1 this year. But with polls showing Angelides trailing badly, the Democrat’s capacity to raise money seems to be diminishing.
Last week, Schwarzenegger raised more than $1 million, Angelides $393,000.
In a brief interview at a Central Park South hotel Monday, Schwarzenegger expressed no sympathy for his rival’s difficulty with donation limits.
“He can get up to $22,300 from any given person that has faith in him -- that has conviction that he’s going to be the better candidate,” said Schwarzenegger, who collected money a few hours later at a fundraiser held by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at his Upper East Side town house.
Another obstacle for Angelides has been legal restraints on state party advertising. Some supporters have fretted for months at his failure to run biographical TV ads to give voters a sense of who he is. But a large share of the funds available to him has been party money that could be legally spent only on so-called issue ads, such as his spots linking Schwarzenegger to President Bush’s pursuit of the Iraq war.
As for free media coverage, Angelides has struggled from the start to draw a fraction of what Schwarzenegger routinely gets, often in high-profile venues with no tough questions. On “Monday Night Football,” he appeared in the middle of a Chargers-Raiders game with a California firefighter who had been a 9/11 rescue worker.
“These firefighters, they’re just unbelievable, because you know it’s the most selfless profession,” Schwarzenegger said, with no probing about his political battle with firefighters last year over pension benefits. “They risk their own lives to save other lives. I make a lot of action heroes in my life, but those are the true action heroes.” “Isn’t that the truth?” the announcer said. “Third down and six. Pass is complete.... Gov. Schwarzenegger, it’s great to see you.”
Said Michael Terris, a campaign consultant who worked for Angelides when he ran for treasurer: “No one can compete with that kind of exposure. It’s not like you can claim equal time on ‘Monday Night Football.’ ”
In New York, Schwarzenegger used his public appearances with Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki to trumpet their efforts against global warming. “He’s the terminator of greenhouse gases,” Schwarzenegger said of the mayor as they toured a trading floor where polluters broker permits for carbon emissions under agreements to reduce global warming.
Near the Hudson River waterfront, Schwarzenegger and Pataki visited the scenic rooftop of a high-rise apartment tower that runs partly on solar power.
Campaigning in San Francisco with nowhere near the attention paid the governor, Angelides said his own environmental record was stronger than Schwarzenegger’s.
“Today the governor is in New York doing another PR stop,” Angelides said in a webcast interview with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board. “He’s touring a ‘green building’ in New York while he’s really there for fundraising.”
California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres said Angelides’ money was not drying up, although many traditional donors such as labor unions have reached the maximum they can give under state law. Also, Democrats are sending money to campaigns across the nation where the party seems poised to make gains.
“The power of incumbency and the power of celebrity, you cannot discount that,” Torres said.
“But we have human power, which I think is going to carry the day. Do I wish I had more money? Absolutely, yes.”
Times staff writers Scott Martelle and Dan Morain contributed to this report.
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