William Foster, Governor's Office
There have been some criticisms of the state’s response to the catastrophic fires in Southern California. But by most accounts at least one person has emerged from the tragedy with an image boost: Governor Schwarzenegger.
While the fires were raging, Governor Schwarzenegger visited busy evacuation centers, charred avocado farms and burned-out trailer parks. He secured a visit from the President and told evacuees he would make sure they had toilet paper and baby formula. He also held a lot of press conferences:
“I am here to pay full attention to all of you. You should know that you’re not out there by yourself fighting those fires….that the state is there to help you.”
“if you have a two-paragraph history of the Schwarzenegger governorship, this will merit at least a line.”
That's Professor of government at Claremont McKenna College Jack Pitney.
“He demonstrated compassion for the victims – he demonstrated competence in directing the response and so he’s going to get a boost in his popularity.”
But will that translate into a boost with Democrats who aren’t thrilled with Schwarzenegger’s healthcare reform plan? Pitney says probably not. Such an event can certainly affect a leader’s approval ratings, says President and C-E-O of the Public Policy Institute of California Mark Baldassare. He says nine-eleven and Hurricane Katrina are prime examples of how a crisis is both an opportunity – and a risk:
“This is one of the reasons that people go to vote and put their trust in public officials, is that they will come through at such moments.”
Schwarzenegger Press Secretary Aaron McLear says it’s too soon for the Governor to pat himself on the back. And he says they’ll be looking for ways to improve the response next time. Analysts say the image boost could help the Governor if he decides to run for another office. But he recently ruled out two high profile positions that were the subject of wide speculation. He says he is not interested in running for the U.S. Senate or Mayor of L.A.