Speculation is rampant in California that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will challenge liberal Democrat Barbara Boxer for her Senate seat in 2010 – and a new poll has them running neck and neck.
A California Field survey of registered voters released Tuesday showed Schwarzenegger with 44 percent of the votes in a hypothetical election, and Boxer with 43 percent. The rest were undecided.
The poll also showed Schwarzenegger with a favorable job performance rating – 56 percent of respondents said they approve of his performance as governor, and only 23 percent disapprove, with his support coming from a majority of both Republicans and Democrats.
“It would be a fabulous battle royale,” Republican consultant Rob Stutzman, the governor’s former communications director, told the San Jose Mercury News about a Schwarzenegger-Boxer match-up.
“And poll numbers like these just feed the parlor game.”
Three-term Sen. Boxer is up for re-election in 2010, when Gov. Schwarzenegger will be finishing his second and final term.
The conventional wisdom is that he most likely will not seek the Senate seat. Some observers believe he might instead run for mayor of Los Angeles, accept a Cabinet post in Washington, or return to Hollywood as a producer or director.
But others believe he will find the lure of “the nation’s most exclusive club” difficult to ignore.
Democratic strategist Garry South told the Mercury News: “I don’t think Arnold is any more immune to that than any politician. There’s nothing like being in office, like people calling you governor, like having a security detail around you. You can’t underestimate the allure of that status.”
Boxer – who has been seen as vulnerable to a challenge by a moderate Republican – is taking no chances. She raised the possibility of a Schwarzenegger run in a recent fundraising e-mail to supporters.
Arnold, for his part, has given no indication of his plans.
“Of all the things the governor is worried about right now,” his communications director Adam Mendelsohn said, “this may be last on the list.”
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