His most famous line--"Hasta la vista, baby"--notwithstanding, Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be speaking a different language from most of California's 2.5 million registered Hispanic voters. Between the 2003 recall that put him in office, when Schwarzenegger drew 31% of the Latino vote, and his announcement last week that he will run for re-election in 2006, the Governor's support among Hispanics has fallen to just 17% of Latino residents, according to a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Schwarzenegger has alienated Hispanics with his support of the Minutemen--a group of border-patrolling vigilantes--and of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's decision last week to finish building a 14-mile "security fence" along the border between California and Mexico. (The decision also outraged environmentalists concerned about damage to rare birds and foliage in the Tijuana estuary.) And in what many perceived as a symbolic snubbing, a reporter from La Opinión, California's largest Spanish-language newspaper, was barred last week from a Schwarzenegger event to which two English-language journalists were admitted.
Perhaps most damaging, however, was the open letter some California Republicans issued last week denouncing the Governor's dismal record on placing Latinos in key posts and calling the state G.O.P. "morally wrong and politically stupid" for its shoddy treatment of Latino candidates. Jim Lopez, state chairman for the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and an Arnold booster, said of those who signed the letter, "If these folks wanted miracles, maybe they should have elected St. Augustine." Stranger people have made it into office. --By Jeffrey Ressner