What’s your favorite state in the nation? The answer is California! That is the message Governor Schwarzenegger has been trying to send out to potential business owners and investors this month. In the last week alone, Schwarzenegger has spoken to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and has co-hosted a press conference with Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania… among other ambitious endeavors. The governor is kicking into high gear, a full-scale pro-business drive, targeting both new businesses and business which have left the Golden State because of exceptionally high rates of taxation. At one speaking engagement, he referenced his trademark line “I’ll be back,” telling the crowd that business-wise, California would be back.
Schwarzenegger is an actor by trade, and as such, is expected to be theatrical in his communication with voters. So it comes as no surprise that earlier this week, between whirlwind speaking engagements at the Next American Economy conference and the Chamber of Commerce gala, he praised the ingenuity of Californians, predicted a strong bounce back (of course) and extolled the virtues of California. Schwarzenegger told his audience that crowds continue to flock to California, noting that “There’s no one screaming like, ‘I can’t wait to get to Iowa’… They want to come here to California.” He mocked other states for only producing oil, potatoes or housing “old people.” Iowans quickly responded to the statement in kind, citing Iowa's lower unemployment, financial stability, a balanced budget and even gubernatorial strength (Gov. Culver jokingly insinuated that he could take on the former star of the “Terminator” movies).
What detractors fail to see, however, is that Schwarzenegger accomplished his goal, with the assistance of critics. By taking his jocular statements to heart and repeating them, the governor’s message continues to be spread: California is still an exciting, surprising and great place, even if the budget isn’t pretty currently. And the governor isn’t just whistling Dixie. He has been behind a number of efforts to update and modernize the state, including pushing for an $11 billion water infrastructure upgrade, as well as high speed rail. He also noted that with the President’s blessing, $4 billion will be put “into the Transportation Infrastructure Bank.” He delivered his humorous and provocative statements at a conference with New York’s Mayor Bloomberg and Rendell, so he understands the power of the gesture.
Schwarzenegger is serious about leaving his last term as governor with some impressive accomplishments, and he may just end up succeeding. The man who came to America with but a handful of cash and a dream, did fashion himself into one of the most memorable movie icons in Hollywood history, and later propelled himself to the governor’s mansion. And if speculation is correct, he may be gunning for a Senate seat next.
If Schwarzenegger has some fresh ideas to rejuvenate California business, voters had better take a good, hard look, because if he wants to win a Senate seat, he realizes that he will need some real accomplishments to be considered a credible candidate. Perhaps his ambition will come to benefit California after all.