California will say goodbye to ‘the Governator’ as Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves office after seven years running America’s most populous state.
Even Arnie’s supporters will have a tough time defending his record: his popularity ratings are a lowly 22%, unemployment is above the national average at 12.4%, and California’s deficit now tops 28bn US dollars.
Much of the turbulence buffeting the administration was out of Mr Schwarzenegger’s control – California suffered a massive drought and was hit especially hard by the recession, as much of the state’s revenues come from property taxes and tourism.
But critics say the Republican Governor did not do enough to end the partisan bickering in the state capital, Sacramento, which has bedevilled successive governors.
The political in-fighting led to gridlock in the state legislature, delaying attempts to tackle California’s growing economic crisis.
There were, however, some hard fought victories.
He burnished his green credentials by pursuing a number of environmental initiatives including the toughest vehicle emission standards in the country. That won him few friends in Washington’s Republican leadership, who argue against the necessity of such restrictions.
The Republican strategist Matt Klink offered a harsh assessment of the Governor’s time in Sacramento: “He won on the strength of his name and his reputation as being tough and the Terminator.
“But he came into office and had wild swings to the right and the left…which limited his ability to be effective, and that will be his legacy.
“He promised to end boom and bust in California, but he used the same budget gimmicks and shenanigans, robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Mr Klink told Sky News.
The former Attorney General Jerry Brown will inherit those problems when he is sworn into office, prompting speculation over what Mr Schwarzenegger will do next.
Asked if the former actor could make a return to Hollywood, Paul Giamatti, the star of the films Sideways and Barney’s Version, an Oscar hopeful, replied: “Would he want to?”
He continued: “That would be weird to go the other way, I think it would be hard, but the man’s had an amazing career. God knows what he could do next, and in the meantime he can make some more movies.”
Many observers believe Mr Schwarzenegger will leave party politics and use his influence to back certain candidates, using his considerable star power to raise money for individual campaigns.
But Ian Halperin, the author of the unauthorised biography The Governator believes he may have his eyes on the ultimate political prize: the White House.
“I definitely think he is going to try to amend the constitution to allow foreign-born to run this country. If anyone can do it, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he said.
“To change the constitution is monumental, but I believe it will be his next move after he leaves office. He is not afraid to cross party lines and we could see him and the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, run on an independent platform.”
Others are sceptical he has the political support to achieve such a manoeuvre after upsetting Republicans and Democrats alike with his maverick agenda.
But after this man’s unpredictable rise from bodybuilder to action hero to California Governor, nothing can be ruled out.