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«Chamaleon»: Schwarzenegger show green in Campaign

LOS ANGELES – California Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Democratic opponents call him a chameleon, changing colors as he seeks re-election in a difficult year for Republicans nationwide.

Last week, the Republican Schwarzenegger was decidedly “green,” like the color of his campaign bus, as he struck a deal with the state legislature’s Democratic majority to enact a law making California the first U.S. state to cap greenhouse-gas emissions.

In doing so, he snubbed his own party, much of the California business establishment and President Bush, whom Schwarzenegger has accused of doing too little to fight global warming.

With that and other initiatives that have made the former bodybuilder and star of the “Terminator” movies look like a closet Democrat, Schwarzenegger has built a strong lead in the campaign.

A poll released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California gave Schwarzenegger 45 percent of the vote, a 13-point lead over State Treasurer Phil Angelides, the Democratic candidate.

Nationally, the Republicans face losing their majority in the U.S. Congress as Bush’s popularity ratings hover in the high 30 percent range amid voter dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and other issues.

Schwarzenegger backed an increase in California’s minimum wage to the highest nationwide and a cut in the cost of prescription drugs — stealing traditional Democratic issues from Angelides.

After Schwarzenegger and the state’s top Democrats announced the greenhouse-gas bill and drew accolades from the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a struggling Angelides was left with little ground to stand on.

Even if Schwarzenegger has distanced himself from Bush’s conservative agenda, analysts say he should make amends with core constituents — conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians.

“Every time he steps toward the middle to grab the moderates, he risks disaffecting these people, not to the point that they will vote for somebody else but just not vote at all,” said Larry Gerston, political science professor at San Jose State University.