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Schwarzenegger Using Entertainment Media in Campaign for California Governor - 2003-08-28


California candidate for governor Arnold Schwarzenegger outlined his stand on the issues in several radio interviews this week. He was responding to criticism that he was seeking to avoid outlining his political views so that he would not antagonize any potential voters.

Wednesday, the candidate spoke with radio host Sean Hannity.

Hannity Do you consider yourself, for example, pro-life or pro-choice? Scharzenegger Pro-Choice. Hannity Are you in favor of parental notification [informing parents when children under 18 are seeking an abortion]? Schwarzenegger I am, but in some cases, when there is abuse in the family or problems in the family, then the courts should decide.

In this and another interview with a second radio host, a sketchy picture emerged through the question-and-answer exchanges of a social moderate and a fiscal conservative.

As with any other candidate, the more specific Mr. Schwarzenegger gets on issues, the greater chance he has of upsetting some voters. Mr. Schwarzenegger says he supports gun control, and that, like his pro-choice stand on abortion, is already alienating some conservatives. Republican rival Tom McClintock has focused on those issues and suggested that the actor, who is running as a Republican, is out of touch with the party.

On the other hand, Mr. Schwarzenegger opposes giving drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, which will probably cost him support among the state's Hispanics. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, who is also in the race, has already taken the actor to task on another immigrant issue, his support of a 1994 measure to cut public services for illegal residents.

But those are the pitfalls of the race, says communications expert Dietram Scheufele of Cornell University, who thinks the actor-turned-politician is doing well in his campaign. The analyst says the candidate is communicating with voters through entertainment programs and avoiding traditional news shows.

"I think Arnold Schwarzenegger is a little bit ahead of the curve when it comes to campaigning," he said. "And I mean that in a very positive way. He has understood where the trend is going, and the trend is going toward a more entertainment orientation of campaigns."

He says an entertainment format gives Mr. Schwarzenegger more control in shaping his image, by targeting his audience and addressing it directly.

He believes the candidate would do well to rely on general themes as he conveys to voters his image as a successful businessman.

"They don't want all the information. They don't want the complete platform because there are so many issues that they have to make decisions on, on a daily basis," he said.

The analyst says voters increasing rely on key issues and general impressions as they choose a candidate. Right now, he says, the key issue is the economy and the voters are looking for someone who can improve it.

He believes the candidate, so far, is building a public image that many voters will respond to, and that the mass media are helping by focusing on image instead of issues.

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