Schwarzenegger launches re-election campaign

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger formally kicked off his re-election drive Wednesday by jumping on top of a table in a crowded restaurant and promising supporters he would lead California to a prosperous future.

"Are you with me? Are you with me?" the governor shouted, as a crowd cheered wildly.

The former Hollywood actor faced no credible opposition in Tuesday's primary, easily capturing the Republican nomination. But his own campaign has said the November election will be close, coming as Republicans are slumping nationwide.

His choice to launch his campaign in Humboldt County, a Democrat-leaning region in California's northwest corner, underscored the governor's need to reach out beyond his Republican base.

First elected in a historic 2003 recall, Schwarzenegger enters the race a provisional front-runner, an incumbent in a state that tends to retain incumbents. With the state economy growing, Schwarzenegger also has seen his public standing improve over the last few months.

"In November, the conventional wisdom was Arnold was dead on arrival," said veteran Democratic consultant Kam Kuwata.

His re-election is far from certain but "you have to favor the incumbent because incumbents in California win."

Schwarzenegger offers voters a sharp contrast in style as well as substance from his opponent Phil Angelides, who secured the Democratic nomination by defeating state Controller Steve Westly in a primary race.

Schwarzenegger, whose frame still recalls his days as a champion bodybuilder, is a native Austrian known for his moderate Republicanism. Angelides, gangly and bespectacled, is a former developer and wonkish Harvard graduate who prides himself on his liberal credentials.

Angelides wants to raise taxes on high-income earners and corporations; Schwarzenegger wants to hold the line on taxes. Schwarzenegger blocked giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants; Angelides would endorse it. Schwarzenegger signed an order deploying National Guard troops to the border; Angelides opposes President George W. Bush's plan to use troops to help curb illegal immigration, reports AP.


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