Rise of the candidate?

Variety Editorial

How “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” fares at the box office this weekend could matter more to Californians than they know.

If the sequel does well, its superhero’s political ambitions could get an adrenaline shot. What better credential could there be in today’s culture than a No. 1 movie? Even a so-so gross figures to be a marked improvement over Schwarzenegger’s B.O. over the past decade and would therefore be spun as a triumph.

At 55, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a household name around the world — something that is of inestimable value in mounting a run for office.

On the other hand, a lot about Schwarzenegger the man is still shadowy — the public does not know how liberal or conservative he is. What are his official stances on hot-button topics like the environment and gun control?

How much will the celeb in him bristle at being probed and prodded by the media?

And perhaps the most important question for voters: Just what would he do to extricate the state from its $38 billion budget shortfall?

If the process to recall Gov. Gray Davis is put in motion via a petition Sept. 2, an election could be held as early as next spring: Arnie’s sunglasses would in the meantime have to come off.

On the other hand, boffo biz on “Terminator 3” might convince the action hero that grappling with the state’s budget overrun is a lot less fun than helping put together a budget for a fourth installment of “Terminator.”

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