Front-runner rallies at the fair

Deirdre Newman

Arnold Schwarzenegger channeled his Terminator persona’s killer

instinct to demonstrate his disdain for the car tax on Thursday.

During a campaign rally in Costa Mesa, Schwarzenegger -- who in

most polls is leading the state’s recall election -- told the fervent

crowd that when his movie characters don’t take a liking to

something, they destroy it.

Then he promised to use the same tactic against the car tax if

elected governor on Tuesday.

To illustrate his point, Schwarzenegger directed the crowd’s

attention to a crane that dropped a wrecking ball on a Buick

spray-painted with “Davis Car Tax.” And glass went flying.

The dramatic gesture against the car tax underscored

Schwarzenegger’s disdain for Gov. Gray Davis’ economic policies and

management style. The front-runner of those challenging Davis in the

recall election touted his populist philosophy.

“People are sick and tired of dirty money, closed doors, backroom

deals and special interests,” Schwarzenegger said. “I will represent

the people for a change.”

Wearing a white shirt under a black jacket with an American flag

on the sleeve, Schwarzenegger spoke for about five minutes. He

emphasized his positive attitude, which helped him achieve his goals

of becoming bodybuilding’s Mr. Olympia and an international action

movie star.

“I don’t believe it when some politicians [in Sacramento] say, ‘I

can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t do that,’” Schwarzenegger said. “I believe

in things that you can do.”

But Schwarzenegger neglected to enumerate the things he would do,

if elected, except try to rescind the car tax.

The star of the three Terminator movies often injects Terminator

lingo into his speeches, and today was no exception, as he lambasted

the governor he hopes to oust.

“Gray Davis has terminated jobs, terminated business, terminated

hope and terminated opportunity,” Schwarzenegger said. “Now it’s time

to terminate Gray Davis.”

Hundreds of Schwarzenegger fans and volunteers converged in the

parking lot of the fairgrounds, some waiting an hour to hear

Schwarzenegger speak.

Before the rally, a parade of Schwarzenegger supporters whipped

the crowd into a frenzy, including Hugh Hewitt, a national radio talk

show host.

Hewitt implored fans in the crowd to encourage their friends to

vote for Schwarzenegger on election day.

“It’s not enough to win with 50% or 55% of the vote,” Hewitt said.

“Registrars around the state are saying it might hit 70% turnout

because people want change. They’re sick and tired of lies and

corruption, of unions, of casinos and of trial lawyers.”

Most who attended the rally came for political reasons.

Ken Stechauner, a Costa Mesa resident, said Schwarzenegger

addressed his concerns as an unemployed father of five.

“He spoke to my needs about struggling families and putting food

on the table,” Stechauner said.

Others came to catch a glimpse of their favorite action hero,

including John Spalin Jr., of Laguna Niguel, who celebrated his 12th

birthday on Wednesday. After the rally, John hung around

Schwarzenegger’s bus, dubbed the “Arnold Comeback Express,” hoping to

get his autograph.

“I think Arnold can really do this and can win and can change how

everything can be done,” said John, who identified “Terminator 2" as

his favorite Schwarzenegger movie.

Earlier Thursday, Schwarzenegger apologized for behaving “badly”

toward women and promised to change, yet repudiated as “trash

politics” a story in the Los Angeles Times that chronicled the

accusations of sexual harassment by six women.

* DEIRDRE NEWMAN covers Costa Mesa and may be reached at (949)

574-4221 or by e-mail at