Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger likes to end his speeches with a flourish from his Terminator days: "I'll be back!"
The way his re-election bid is going, he's probably right.
Beaten, bruised and adrift just a year ago, the former Hollywood action star has become the clear favorite against Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides in the Nov. 7 elections, having turned things around by moving to the political center, collaborating with Democrats in the Legislature and watching his mouth.
If Schwarzenegger can pull it off on election day in this heavily Democratic state, it will be "the most successful rehabilitation in recent California history," as political scientist Bruce Cain put it.
The Republican has rebounded by doing something altogether unusual in politics: apologizing for his mistakes, changing course and breaking with his own party.
"Conventional wisdom says you have to be consistent," said Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. "It's hard to say Arnold is consistent ... but it's worked for him."
Schwarzenegger's rebound has been aided by an employment boomlet and a state economy that has pumped billions of dollars of unexpected cash into the treasury, allowing him to lavish money on education and other popular programs.
At the same time, the relatively unknown Angelides has yet to stir widespread excitement among Democrats. A brainy, Harvard-educated detail guy, the 53-year-old Angelides has been hard-pressed to compete with Schwarzenegger's Hollywood charisma, reports AP.
Allyson Dworkin, a 43-year-old Democrat, voted against Schwarzenegger in the 2003 special election, and she doesn't like his history of off-color remarks about women. Yet she is open-minded about November and impressed with Schwarzenegger's green streak on environmental issues.
"He surprised me. I expected a lot of bluster and not much else," she said. Asked about Angelides, she paused, her face pinched. "I just don't know a whole lot about him," she said.
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