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Schwarzenegger: ‘I will not endorse anybody’

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Saturday put to rest months of speculation that he would shake up presidential politics by endorsing one of the candidates.

Standing alongside Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City -- an Independent and a potential contender himself -- at a Los Angeles news conference, the Republican governor said he would not be getting involved in the race.

“It doesn’t help me any, it doesn’t help the state of California to endorse anybody,” Schwarzenegger said. “I will not endorse anybody.”

The governor, whose popularity with voters in California and nationwide might have enabled him to give a boost to anyone he supported, said an endorsement would curb the amount of attention candidates spend on California and the concerns of its voters.

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“I respect all the candidates in the Republican lineup,” the governor said. “Of course, I have my preferences. But I don’t get involved.”

Schwarzenegger has long appeared to relish speculation about what he might do. He has parlayed the courtship of various candidates into a national platform for issues that interest him, such as global warming and healthcare.

Reporters traveled from across the country Saturday to attend the event that the governor, Bloomberg and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell held under the interchange of the 105 and 110 freeways. The three were calling for more federal investment in infrastructure -- a cause dear to Schwarzenegger -- and announcing a new national coalition to promote public-works investment. But the subtext of presidential politics was the clear media draw.

With the Republican primary race still wide open, delegate-rich California could play a key role in determining who wins the nomination when Golden State voters cast ballots Feb. 5. The governor said he wants all of the candidates to spend as much time as possible in the state before then.

“I am looking forward to having all the candidates come out here,” Schwarzenegger said.

He denied that he was waiting before making a decision on an endorsement to see if Bloomberg -- whom the governor has called his “soul mate” -- would enter the race as an Independent.

Bloomberg has continued to deny that he will run, even as he seeks audiences at events far from his home state and his speeches grow increasingly national in scope. In Los Angeles on Saturday, he denounced the power structure in Washington as inept, lacking vision and obsessed with fundraising.

“Congress is sitting back and resting on the accomplishments of the past generation -- our parents’ generation,” Bloomberg said. He said Washington spends public-works money “to win votes and campaign cash” regardless of the country’s needs.

Before arriving in California, the New York mayor had stopped in Texas, where the Associated Press reported that he met privately Friday with Clay Mulford, who is an expert on qualifying candidates for the ballot and was the campaign manager for H. Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential bid.

Republican insiders had speculated that Schwarzenegger would throw his support behind either the New York mayor or Arizona Sen. John McCain, a fellow self-styled maverick to whom the governor has grown close over the years.

McCain campaigned with Schwarzenegger for the ill-fated ballot measures the governor championed in his 2005 “year of reform.” Even as the governor’s poll numbers plummeted that year along with support for his ballot measures, McCain boarded a bus with Schwarzenegger and supported him at rallies. The senator also helped the governor with fundraising for his re-election in 2006.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who shares the governor’s moderate positions on some social issues, was also believed to be in the running for Schwarzenegger’s endorsement.

Political analysts say the governor’s demurral reflects the inability of Republicans to coalesce around a particular candidate well into primary season.

“In a race this muddled, sitting on the sidelines is a good strategic decision,” said Dan Schnur, who advised McCain during his 2000 presidential bid. “If the governor bets on the wrong horse, it would leave him in a lousy position.”

Backing a candidate who fails to win the nomination, analysts say, would embarrass the governor -- who is perhaps better known than any of the candidates -- and reduce his clout with the White House.

Even lining up with the ultimate winner of the nomination could prove a political liability. In 2004, Schwarzenegger traveled to Ohio to campaign for President George W. Bush’s re-election bid. Bush won, but his policies grew increasingly unpopular in California. The Democrats who dominate the state used the governor’s ties to Bush as fodder for the campaign that sank Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives in 2005.

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evan.halper@latimes.com


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