Schwarzenegger Says Poll Slump Doesn't Bother Him
Thu Apr 28, 2005 07:33 PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Thursday he does not care about his plunging job rating and will press on with a ballot measure to strip lawmakers of their authority to draw district lines.
Schwarzenegger's comments during a radio interview came as many analysts wonder if he has lost the momentum necessary to push through the agenda he unveiled early this year. It includes a special election for his redistricting measure.
Schwarzenegger said a labor offensive -- union protesters have been dogging the celebrity Republican governor -- would not derail his agenda. "They're lying to the people," he said.
His job rating has plummeted and Democratic lawmakers feel emboldened to fight. "They figure that Schwarzenegger has to spend so much time ducking punches that he doesn't have time to throw his own," said Jack Pitney, a Claremont McKenna College professor of government.
Earlier this year it appeared Schwarzenegger could ram through an agenda to dramatically alter California's bureaucracy. But opponents have forced him to back away from one of his top priorities and are endangering three others.
Schwarzenegger has postponed plans for a popular vote on a partial privatization of state pension funds and is pushing back the original April 29 deadline for qualifying his redistricting measure. Meanwhile, teachers are thrashing his merit-pay plan for educators and a state spending cap.
Democrats see an opportunity to put him on his heels before talks to close an estimated $9 billion budget shortfall. "This makes for a very interesting debate this summer," said Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen. "Democrats see a wounded Gov. Schwarzenegger."
California's top Democratic lawmaker, state Sen. Don Perata, said this week he would back tax increases to boost school spending, a direct challenge to the anti-tax governor.
"Everybody can read the polls and when you've got a governor in popularity freefall, there isn't that much to be scared of," said Barry Broad, a union lobbyist.
Schwarzenegger's job approval rating had sunk to 40 percent in a recent poll from 60 percent in January, underscoring his failure to find backing beyond Republicans.