Schwarzenegger Aura Buoys GOP; Absent Arnold a Hit at Gathering

Article excerpt

Byline: Ralph Z. Hallow, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger managed to be one of the two biggest hits at a Republican governors' meeting here, even though he was 3,000 miles away in a place he calls "Callefornea."

From Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to Mississippi Gov.-elect Haley Barbour - the other big hit - to Kentucky Gov.-elect Ernie Fletcher, Republicans agreed that the Terminator has injected additional energy into the Republican Party, potentially further broadening its appeal to voters.

"I want to apologize to all of you for not being there," Mr. Schwarzenegger said from Sacramento, Calif., in a teleconference call Friday night to the Republican Governors' Association annual conference.

"I, of course, would have loved coming down to Florida and party with you guys, and get a little bit more knowledge about all of this," said the Austrian immigrant and actor-turned-politician.

Explaining that he couldn't attend because he was "in the middle of a big meeting" about a plan to solve the fiscal crisis in California that he inherited, Mr. Schwarzenegger said he just wanted to say hello to his fellow governors "out there having a good time in Florida."

In specifically congratulating Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Barbour for their gubernatorial victories earlier this month, Mr. Schwarzenegger, in his now widely imitated Austrian accent, called Mr. Barbour "HALL-ee." That caused Mr. Bush, serving as host and master of ceremonies, to quip that Mr. Barbour is the first female governor from Mississippi.

Next up, Mr. Barbour opened his address to the conference by saying, in his river-deep Mississippi accent: "I never thought at a Republican conference like this I'd be the one with the second-worst accent."

Mr. Barbour went on to deliver an impassioned speech, saying that the three Republican gubernatorial victories this month illustrated a basic principle that Republicans need to follow.

"When we run positive campaigns and talk about issues, we win, because the other side doesn't have issues it can talk about," he said.

Mr. Bush said that Mr. Schwarzenegger is a star unlike anyone else in the Republican Party, with the exception of his brother, the president. Mr. Bush urged Republicans not to abandon the party's limited-government agenda. …