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Enter, Conan the Republican

Los Angeles, Aug. 7 (Reuters): Action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger, nicknamed Conan the Republican, defied predictions, stunned California and frightened Democrats yesterday when he announced he would run for governor in a bid to terminate governor Gray Davis’ political career.

Widely expected to bow out of the governor’s race and endorse former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan in the recall election, Schwarzenegger instead declared himself ready to lead the troubled state even though he has never held a single public office.

The news sent shock waves through the California Democratic party which has vivid memories of another actor who quit the stage for Republican politics, Ronald Reagan, a two-term governor and two-term president. Appearing on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Schwarzenegger said his message to politicians of both parties was: “You do your job and you do it well or else you’re out and it’s hasta la vista, baby” — a line from the Terminator 2: Judgment Day movie.

Many in the audience collectively gasped and burst into applause when he announced his decision. Schwarzenegger shrugged off the prospect of negative campaigning by his opponents, saying: “I know they’re going to throw everything at me, (that) I have no experience, (that) I’m a womaniser and a terrible guy. You all know that Gray Davis knows how to run a dirty campaign better than anyone but he doesn’t know how to run a state. I will promise you when I go up to Sacramento, I will pump Sacramento up.”

He added that California’s politicians are “failing the people, and the man who is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis. He is failing them terribly. And this is why he needs to be recalled, and this is why I’m going to run for governor.”

In an impromptu news conference with reporters backstage of the Leno show after his appearance, Schwarzenegger said: “I’m a Republican but I will run as a Californian to straighten out California. ... I have the energy, I have the intelligence and I have the know-how.”

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