What Hollywood Is Watching in California’s Governor’s Race

1. What Will Arnold Do. Meg Whitman fired the first veiled shot at Arnold Schwarzenegger last night when she said that “not glitz, not glamour, not glibness, but guts,” as she tries to distance herself from his tenure even while running with the same playbook. Schwarzengger has suggested that he will endorse a candidate, but he also may be working to defeat the California Jobs Initiative, a proposed ballot measure that would suspend AB 32, the law designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The fight over that measure stands to be a landmark battle with huge outlays from oil companies on one side and environmental orgs on the other, but if Schwarzengger makes it a priority, it’s hard to see how he then endorses Whitman, who wants to suspend AB 32, a key part of his agenda. As his governorship winds down, he needs to leave a legacy that is not about budget impasses, dramatic shortfalls and gridlock, but actual accomplishment that had a nationwide impact, and this is one of them.

2. A Message from Jerry. The question is now shifting from Where’s Jerry to What’s He Going to Say? Die-hard Brown supporters believe that he has a savvy plan up his sleeve for how he is going to face an opponent who can vastly outspend him. More skeptical supporters fear he’ll be in over his head. This morning, there will be a sense of where he is going when he appears at a press event in downtown Los Angeles.

3. Moderation from Meg. Even though Whitman has industry experience on her resume, having worked as an executive at Disney, she has yet to show that she can expand her list of industry donors and supporters beyond the usual suspects. That may be due to the fact that it’s tougher to convince someone to donate to a campaign where the candidate herself is writing $20 million checks. But back in 2006, Schwarzengger got a lot of mileage when Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban crossed party lines and endorsed him. Spielberg and Katzenberg are already in Brown’s camp, and Saban has given to both campaigns, but there’s still time for Whitman to appeal to the younger set of industry players and XXX who take to her message of entrepreneurship.

4. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Schwarzengger helped usher in the state’s first incentive program, but the common wisdom among producers is that it is not enough if California is to realistically compete with states like Louisiana and New Orleans. Each candidate is going to have to spell out how they can solve runaway production, a prospect that will eliminate the temptation to go on the attack against Hollywood. Although this election is proving to be much more about Silicon Valley than Tinseltown, there is enough angst here to call for realistic plans to keep production in the state.

5. Star Power.

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