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Consultant: 'Schwarzenegger is well-positioned'

Bill Hillsman, left, and Kieran Mahoney

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(CNN) -- Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced he is running for California governor. Although he is quick to tell the public what is wrong with the current governor, Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger has revealed little about where he stands on the issues.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer talked about what Schwarzenegger could face on the campaign trail with political consultant Kieran Mahoney. Joining them was media analyst Bill Hillsman, who helped turn obscure law professor Paul Wellstone into a U.S. senator and pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura into a governor.

BLITZER: Bill, what do you think of Schwarzenegger's media strategy so far?

HILLSMAN: Well, you're starting to see the pluses and the minuses to it. The pluses are that he can get a camera any time he wants to. The minuses are, when he starts to be asked some pretty tough questions about substance, maybe he isn't ready for prime time yet.

BLITZER: What does he have to do, Kieran, to get himself ready on the substance, because you know that the reporters are going to be pressing and pressing and pressing for details?

MAHONEY: I think that the reporters are not going to win the day here. I think he's got a honeymoon period. It will probably last a couple of weeks. And I think he's got to put out what he's going to do about the budget, the major issues in California, and not much more than that. He's got to remember, his audience is not the reporters. It is the voters at home.

BLITZER: If you were putting together a media campaign, an ad campaign, Bill, for him, what would you be stressing?

HILLSMAN: Well, I think he's trying to get to it.

It is basically populism. You have to remember the environment out there. People are mad. This is a historic occasion. In the Ventura campaign, we basically had to cultivate that. We had to recognize it. That's not the case here. People are mad. They're demanding some changes.

BLITZER: Kieran, can you take his weaknesses and make them look like strengths?

MAHONEY: Absolutely.

I think that Jesse Ventura did exactly that. This was a guy who wasn't schooled in government who became the governor of Minnesota by representing change. And I think the biggest thing that Schwarzenegger has going for him is Gray Davis, the incumbent governor. And if it is seen as a Davis vs. Schwarzenegger fight, I think that he could be the next governor very easily.

BLITZER: But, Kieran, if a lot of people start thinking Jesse Ventura, as opposed to, let's say, Ronald Reagan, that could be bad news for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

MAHONEY: Well, Ventura did win the race in Minnesota.

And my reaction is that this is a perfect kind of Republican for a California general election. He's fiscally conservative, socially tolerant. Those are the kind of candidates that have done well, kind of right out of central casting, if you will, in both the Northeast and on the West Coast for the Republican Party. And I think Schwarzenegger is well-positioned for this election.

BLITZER: What about that compassionate libertarian slogan that some have described him as, not necessarily a compassionate conservative, a compassionate libertarian? Bill, what do you make of that?

HILLSMAN: Well, that's very much how Jesse Ventura was. And it plays very well in a populist type of campaign.

I think there is one big difference, though. Jesse came from a third-party aspect or an independent aspect. Arnold is coming from the Republican Party. And that makes things a little bit tougher.

BLITZER: If you were going to go back to your playbook for Paul Wellstone or Jesse Ventura, would you have some fun with those ad campaigns?

HILLSMAN: I think you have to have some fun with Arnold, but it can't be too much. There is a tipping point there, where it just becomes exploitative. And without the substance, without the credibility that he can, in fact, govern, it will be a problem for him.

BLITZER: Can Arnold Schwarzenegger really win and become the next governor of California?

MAHONEY: I believe that he has as good a chance as anyone in the field right now.

HILLSMAN: I think he's got a good chance. I'll be surprised if he does win, though.

BLITZER: Why would you be surprised?

HILLSMAN: Because I think there's going to be people out there that have more substance, that have thought about this more, that are maybe better prepared. And I also think he's not going to get quite so much a free ride from the press.

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