arnie the neo-what?

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    By Anthony Harwood

    HE'S a Republican who's in favour of gay rights and gun control and, on the touchstone issue of abortion, he is a confirmed liberal.

    He was against the plans to impeach Bill Clinton and, while George W Bush stands four-square behind the big oil men, he wants to clean up the environment.

    Worse still, he is married to a Kennedy, the royal family of American Democrats.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger built his career out of macho muscle and an awesome arsenal of movie firepower - but to many Americans the Republican Party's front-runner in the race to be the next Governor of California is a bleeding-heart Leftie.

    On the litmus tests of red-necked Republicanism, the Terminator fails at almost every turn.

    In fact, American commentators are beginning to ask: Is Arnie too left-wing for the Republican Party?

    Certainly most of the flak he is facing at the moment is coming from his own party.

    The Rev Lou Sheldon, a far-right bible basher who has formed a new group called Californians For Moral Government, has described Arnie as "a darker villain than any he has faced in his movies".

    He wants to stop Arnie's march to power and is going to confront the Catholic actor with the Vatican's pronouncement that endorsing gay adoption is a mortal sin.

    "We are going to do a gigantic voter turnout through our 8,700 churches in California," said Sheldon. "Schwarzenegger is going to be put under the magnifying glass. The gathering storm is coming."

    But it's not just the loony right which is gunning for Arnie.

    MANY ordinary Republicans have rallied around Bill Simon, who lost last time to Governor Gray Davis.

    "At first glance all Republicans really like Arnold Schwarzenegger," said K.B. Forbes, a senior adviser to Simon. "He's a famous actor. He's pleasant. But I believe that when people start looking at him and the issues, that's going to change."

    The political challenges may pale into insignificance when Arnie's opponents get stuck into his personal life.

    His penchant for being photographed with naked woman and his father's Nazi past won't just disappear.

    Bob Mulholland, a spokesman for the Democratic Party said: "That can be hard for any family. Schwarzenegger has to ask himself, 'Do I put myself in the election, take all the abuse and then lose?'

    "Look, I served in Vietnam. Gray Davis served in Vietnam, and we're not going to be replaced by somebody whose dad was in the Nazi army."

    The situation has led to Arnie's campaign managers scurrying around to find evidence of The Terminator's Republican credentials.

    How in 1994 he voted to cut off state aid to illegal immigrants.

    In fact, Arnie's soft on immigration. After all, Arnie, who was born in Austria, is one himself. They point to the way he campaigned for the first President George Bush.

    True, but George W Bush's endorsement of his candidature last week was, at best, lukewarm.

    Ronald Reagan, that other actor-turned politician, was a hero to the conservative Republicans of California. Although they have been in a political wilderness since 1988, they still insist Schwarzenegger has a lot to prove before he assumes the Reaganite mantle.

    But Schwarzenegger does have one huge thing going for him - his star power.

    It is this, the pundits believe, that may just lift him above the political fray and appeal directly to the people.

    T HAT is why, when he announced his candidacy, he said he wanted everyone, Democrats as well as Republicans, to vote for him.

    And it is why he painted a picture of a sleazy legislature with politicians from both sides corrupted by special interests.

    In a line straight from one of his Terminator films, he said: "I am going to Sacramento (the state capital) to clean house."

    With his £120million fortune he certainly won't be in anyone's pocket.

    Whenever Reagan was in a fix he would go on TV and appeal directly to the American people for their support. Schwarzenegger will do the same. "I have so much energy, I have so much fire,'' he said.

    "I will be going from home to home to talk to the people of California"

    And he won't have any trouble getting on the Six O'Clock News.

    As one pundit put it: "When Arnold entered the race, it became the Arnold Race. Reporters will be covering him first and foremost.

    "Gray Davis will have a hard time getting a word in."

    And Arnie doesn't seem worried about pleasing any politicians or getting any high-level endorsements.

    "As far as I'm concerned, we don't need Presidents to come in here. We don't need ex-Presidents to come in, we don't need senators from other states coming in,'' he said.

    As he told the audience on the Jay Leno show the night he announced he was running: "Either I serve the people or it's hasta la vista."
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