Schwarzenegger could be no-show at GOP convention

 

SACRAMENTO (AP) — When the Republican convention opens on the evening of Sept. 1, its prime-time lineup could be missing one of its biggest draws: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Shackled by the mundane business of state government, Schwarzenegger is vowing to remain in California if lawmakers fail to reach agreement on a state budget, now two months overdue.

“I made it very clear to Sen. (John) McCain when I spoke to him ... and I made it very clear to his people that I am honored to be asked to speak at the convention, the Republican Convention, and that I would be honored to do anything to help him win the presidency, but that the state of California and the budget is the most important thing,” he said. “So that if I don’t have a budget, I cannot speak at the convention.”

 

A budget deal by showtime seems unlikely, potentially costing Schwarzenegger a national platform and McCain a high-profile supporter who has been popular with the kind of independent voter McCain hopes to attract.

Schwarzenegger’s absence also would be a letdown for the television networks, which would lose one of the biggest potential draws on the convention’s opening night.

Other speakers scheduled for Monday include President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and numerous members of Congress.

Schwarzenegger’s failure to commit is proving to be a source of frustration for convention organizers, who like to nail down their programs well in advance. Given the star power of the actor turned politician, they’ll still squeeze him into a prime slot if they can get him.

The stalled budget already forced Schwarzenegger to curtail nearly all appearances this summer.

 

His efforts to cajole lawmakers into a compromise have repeatedly fallen flat.

Schwarzenegger also urged Democratic lawmakers to skip their party’s national nominating convention in Denver to work on the budget, saying he “cannot imagine” how they could attend in good conscience.

“I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t leave the state, and I told them I’m not leaving the state until the budget is done,” he told The Associated Press.

Schwarzenegger said he was honored to be given an opening night speaking slot but reiterated his position about attending the convention.

“The work for the people of California, and to solve this budget problem, is the most important thing right now for me,” he said during a news conference in Los Angeles.

 

California is the only state with a fiscal year beginning July 1 that has not approved a spending plan.

Lawmakers remain at odds over how to close a $15.2 billion budget gap, with Republicans adamantly opposed to any tax increases and Democrats seeking to avoid massive program cuts.

Most Democratic lawmakers already made the decision to stay home and miss their historic convention in Denver.

The majority party likely won’t be motivated to strike a deal with their Republican counterparts in time for them to attend the GOP convention.

 

Organizers of the Minnesota convention still hold out hope that Schwarzenegger will show. Because his speech is scheduled for the Labor Day holiday, he could fly in and out on his private jet without missing any state business.

“We recognize his responsibilities in California and we’ll certainly work with him regarding scheduling should that issue arise,” convention spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said.

She declined to say whether organizers were considering another option: a Schwarzenegger appearance by satellite from Sacramento, as former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson did in 1992 when a similar budget stalemate dragged on.

 

Associated Press Writers Judy Lin in Sacramento and Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.