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Inside Politics

Schwarzenegger becomes the running man

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

Schwarzenegger shakes the hands of fans Thursday on his way to pick up his candidacy papers.

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Here in Hollywood, Arnold Schwarzenegger is known as disciplined, cautious and methodical. He does nothing without careful planning. A lot of careful planning appears to have gone into this week's political Play of the Week.

When the actor picked up his candidacy papers Thursday for the California gubernatorial recall race, the scene looked strikingly similar to one of his Hollywood premieres for a movie. The 'Terminator' was mobbed by a barrage of fans.

Schwarzenegger's announcement of his GOP candidacy for governor was pure show business. It was certainly a surprise to the press and the political establishment.

"Nothing in my imagination could have conjured up this," said San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. "You would rank this as part of 'West Wing.' You wouldn't even do it with 'Bulworth.' This just can't be happening."

Why did the actor-turned-politician choose to make his announcement on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"?

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott said, "He doesn't look out of place with Jay Leno. Whereas if he were addressing factory workers or a rally at a suburban mall, it might, you know, be a little strange."

The actor made his announcement on "The Tonight Show" to applause and cheers. After criticizing Democratic incumbent Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger said, "This is why he needs to be recalled, and this is why I am going to run for governor of the state of California."

The "Terminator's" announcement resulted in great ratings. It was the second most watched "Tonight'' show of the year. How many press conferences do that well?

Politicians need sound bites. Schwarzenegger understands that.

"When you think of his movie roles, he is associated with very simple and memorable catch phrases, as you know -- 'Hasta la vista,' 'I'll be back,' [and] 'Consider this a divorce,' " said Scott.

Here's the political version of his memorable catch phrases:

"Do your job for the people and do it well or otherwise you are out. Hasta la vista, baby ... I can promise you that when I go to Sacramento I will pump up Sacramento. Trust me," Schwarzenegger said on "The Tonight Show."

Is it politics or is it show business? The voters may not care.

"[He's an] all around great guy and is very brilliant in his movies. And I think he is going to take that and bring it into some real world situations we are going through right now," said one California voter.

Can you turn box office appeal into voter appeal? We'll find out soon.

But for now, it was the perfect premiere and a made-in-Hollywood political Play of the Week.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa from San Diego County got the Play of the Week for engineering the California recall -- with more than a million dollars of his own money.

This week, the Republican congressman looked like the loser of the week, as he tearfully announced he wouldn't run.

As they say in politics, "Hasta la vista, baby.''

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