The Terminator takes a fall

Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval ratings dive below the president's as the Gubernator suffers a series of political setbacks.

Published April 28, 2005 3:44PM (EDT)

George W. Bush isn't the only Republican to be getting some bad poll news lately.

A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California has Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval ratings dropping 20 points since January. The poll shows that only 40 percent of California's adults approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance -- an approval rating that's a fair chunk worse than the numbers Bush is getting on the national level.

Schwarzenegger isn't plagued with Bush's problems -- people don't think Arnold lied about the reasons for a war or is conning them on Social Security -- but the Gubernator has got some troubles of his own. Schwarzenegger started the year threatening to put four "reform" measures on the statewide ballot if Democrats in the state legislature didn't approve them first. Since then, he's caved in on one, a plan to privatize the state's pension plan, and he seemed to concede on Wednesday that he's going to have to negotiate with Democrats on another, his plan to change the way California does redistricting. A third Schwarzenegger proposal -- his plan to put teachers on a merit pay plan -- isn't all that likely to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. And on Wednesday, Schwarzenegger was forced to announce that his frustrated education chief, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, will be quitting in June. Add to that a gaffe about the need to "close the border" with Mexico -- Schwarzenegger apologized, saying that he might need to "go back to school" to work on his English -- and a split between some of his conservative advisors and his more liberal wife, and Schwarzenegger is suddenly looking more like a girlie man than the political superstar the GOP hoped he would be.

Pollster Mark Baldassare tells the Sacramento Bee that Schwarzenegger is still popular among Republicans, but that he's losing support among the Democrats and independents who helped put him in office. "Since January, the governor has been less able to communicate effectively with the people, particularly outside of his party, that he's representing their interests," Baldassare said. "People on the other side have been more effective in communicating that he's not."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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