Gov. urges wider GOP focus

Rothfeld is a Times staff writer.

In the wake of crushing defeats for Republicans in last week’s national elections, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Sunday that his party should regroup by moving away from some of its core conservative principles and embracing spending on programs that Americans want.

“I think the important thing for the Republican Party is now to also look at other issues that are very important for this country and not to get stuck in ideology,” the governor said in an interview broadcast on CNN. “Let’s go and talk about healthcare reform. Let’s go and . . . fund programs if they’re necessary programs and not get stuck just on the fiscal responsibility.”

Schwarzenegger, a social moderate, long ago earned the enmity of many California Republicans who believe he abandoned some of the fiscally conservative views he espoused when running for office five years ago. They cite, for instance, his failed plan to dramatically expand health insurance in the state.


Last week, Schwarzenegger further angered Republicans by proposing a statewide sales-tax increase to balance the budget.

But the governor has not previously been so openly critical of the approach of the conservative bloc that dominates his party on the national level. He said that Republicans had “a very good party” and that he had no plans to leave it because he agrees with the GOP’s push to reduce restrictions on business and remain tough on crime.

Schwarzenegger said, however, that the GOP should support greater investment to build roads and fix schools and fund other “things that the American people want to have done.”

Republicans should not “always just say, ‘This is spending. We can’t do that,’ ” the governor said. “No, don’t get stuck with that. We have heard that dialogue. Let’s move on.”

Schwarzenegger told CNN’s John King that he believed Sen. John McCain would have won the presidency if not for the plunging stock market in the days leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

The governor deflected a question about whether McCain had displayed bad judgment in selecting Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate.


He also said that California First Lady Maria Shriver, a Democrat and a member of the Kennedy family, had been running around their house since Tuesday with a cardboard cutout of President-elect Barack Obama, gloating over his victory.

Schwarzenegger, who joked about Obama’s “scrawny” physique while campaigning with McCain, said he was “proud” to see the American people elect their first African American president.

“I was touched by it,” he said. “Democrats and Republicans should do everything they can to help this man and his administration to be successful.”

But he said rumors that he would leave his post as governor to work in the Obama administration were not valid.