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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Schwarzenegger win dominates US media
By Rachel Clarke
BBC News Online in Washington

Just a look at the backdrops to the morning and evening news programmes showed exactly where the top story was happening. The three major networks had all moved their top hosts from the east to the west coast to cover California's recall election.

Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the thumbs-up
The size of Mr Schwarzenegger's win will quiet some critics, for now
And within minutes of the polls closing, it was clear what the story was going to be - a definitive win for the Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The breakfast news shows all started with clips from Mr Schwarzenegger's victory speech, but they were split on how strong a win he had secured.

ABC noted there would problems ahead when the candidate became the governor, but said Mr Schwarzenegger had always risen to a challenge.

CBS also said that the governor-elect's life had always been about setting goals and achieving them.

On NBC, correspondents questioned whether the turnout had been as big as predicted and raised the possibility that Mr Schwarzenegger could face his own recall campaign.

However, most commentators agreed that the turnout and amount of support for Mr Schwarzenegger was high enough to give him legitimacy as he begins his administration.

Hosts on the Fox News Network trumpeted the "Sacramento Slam" - the 16-point gap between Mr Schwarzenegger and his nearest rival, Democrat Lieutenant-Governor Cruz Bustamante, but also lauded Governor Gray Davis for his "gracious" concession.

Voter power

They were among those hailing what many said was an expression of democracy, where people took matters into their own hands to change leaders they had elected before the usual time.

The Los Angeles Times, California's leading newspaper which was attacked for alleged bias against Mr Schwarzenegger, said the governor-elect had ridden "a wave of legitimate voter anger against the usual political games".

The voters were asking for more than a new governor - they wanted a different way of doing business
Los Angeles Times
The paper, which was at the forefront of revealing women's claims that they were sexually harassed by the bodybuilder turned actor, opposed the recall but said now that the campaign was over it was time for Mr Schwarzenegger to govern.

It warned him that there would be tough times ahead but called for others to offer their support.

"Democratic leaders who scorned 'Arnold' had better know that any attempt to obstruct the new governor through lawsuits, new recalls or openly partisan 'payback' will earn them nothing but the voters' contempt," it said.

"The voters were asking for more than a new governor. They wanted a different way of doing business, and Democrats ignore this at their peril. The same goes for Republicans who found the actor-candidate not purely conservative enough for their tastes.

This is not a bad movie - it's the reality of what happens when a bland and unpopular governor meets a Hollywood action hero promising to blow up a corrupt and aloof culture in Sacramento
San Francisco Chronicle
"However, all the comity in the world won't erase the state's fiscal problems or make Schwarzenegger's rather sweeping campaign promises come true."

The San Francisco Chronicle had also opposed the recall and summed up the situation: "This is not a bad movie. It's the reality of what happens when a bland and unpopular governor meets a Hollywood action hero promising to blow up a corrupt and aloof culture in Sacramento."

But it also noted the power of the people as shown at the polls. "California once again has a vibrant two-party system in the Capitol. And politicians everywhere should take note of the voter unrest that produced this historic recall," it said.

The Sacramento Bee - the newspaper in the state capital - said Mr Davis had paid "the price for ineptitude".

It shed no tears over his removal from office just 11 months into a four-year term and called on Mr Schwarzenegger to do better: "Remember, voters expect you to lead. Gray Davis didn't. You must."

Politics as entertainment

Away from California, leading newspapers took a step back to try to work out what the election would mean.

In an analysis piece, the New York Times said there was evidence of a growing partisan schism in California which could make governing more difficult for Mr Schwarzenegger, though he has said he is ready to work with Democrats and often highlights his marriage to Maria Shriver of the Kennedy clan, many of whom were with him for his victory.

In its assessment, the Washington Post said the successful recall would shake up the way California was run while the Washington Times said Mr Schwarzenegger's victory boosted President Bush's chances of achieving re-election through a state once seen as unwinnable.

More than ever, the recall election blurred the lines between entertainment and politics. Tuesday night's programmes bringing Americans the latest Hollywood news started off with the election and even Variety, the film industry's newspaper, led with the story.

"Arnold kicks butt", its headline said. "Teflon Terminator ousts Gov Davis in recall runaway".




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