LIFE OF RILEY
We won't know until November if President Bush has electoral coat tails. But when it comes to raising cash, he sure seems to have the knack for Republican candidates. Take Bush's visit last Monday to Birmingham, Alabama, where he stumped for U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, the Republican nominee for governor.
Speaking before a group of 2,800 GOP loyalists, Bush pressed for Riley, posed for pictures (a $50,000 donation got a grip and grin shot with the big guy), then skedaddled home to Washington. For that effort, Bush raked in $3.8 million for Riley, who had barely $500,000 in the bank until Tuesday morning. There are no limits on how much an individual can donate to a state candidate in Alabama, so who paid what beyond the $1,000 and $50,000 benchmarks that were set for the price of admission won't be known until new state campaign donation records are filed later this year.
Still, Bush's haul for Riley is impressive when you consider that he spent barely four hours in the state and ducked out before Riley even took the podium for his own speech. The president has made similar appearances across the country of late, most recently in Minnesota, where he pulled in more than $2 million for candidates there.
He raised more than $3 million for California gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon last spring. "But he did that over two days, so it doesn't really count," says a Riley campaign staffer. "We think we set the one-day record for fundraising for an individual candidate."
Some people attending the National Governors' Association meeting in Idaho were surprised by how definitive action-movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger was in touting a future run on his part for governor of California. The Austrian-born muscle man has toyed with the idea before, and has allowed his name to be linked to various "Draft Ah-nold" drives, mostly by Southern California Republicans.
But speaking to the governors about his efforts to push for more extensive childhood physical education programs in public schools, Schwarzenegger stated quite unequivocally that he would like to run for the highest office in his home state.
Last year Schwarzenegger backed former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan in his bid for the governorship, after the actor himself had been talked up as a possible candidate. But Schwarzenegger is committed to several high profile film projects that will carry him into 2004. After that, all bets are off.
According to several California campaign consultants, Schwarzenegger is using his phys-ed campaign to gauge just how far he has to go to achieve the kind of slick political persona necessary to run statewide. There is talk of his picking one particular statewide issue to back in 2003 so that he can continue to travel the state in an advocacy role. "It's all about getting people thinking about him as a citizen activist, not just an actor," says one Sacramento-based political consultant. "The more people relate to him as a man interested in issues important to them, the easier it will be for him to show he is a leader who deserves their vote for elected office. It's not a stretch to see it happening."
Another political consultant says that Schwarzenegger, as recently as six months ago, paid for political polling to measure his name recognition and the public's view of him as a potential political candidate. The consultant wouldn't discuss the numbers, other than to say that there were no surprises. "He would not have been embarrassed had he sought the Republican nomination for governor," says the consultant. "But he would not have won it, either."
The consultant adds that by the 2006 California gubernatorial primaries, Schwarzenegger should have transitioned out of high profile movie roles: he is currently shooting Terminator 3 and is slated to again play Conan the Barbarian, perhaps in mid-2003 if the production is greenlit.