Traditionally, when a political candidate declares that they are officially running for office, the announcement is meticulously planned, the speech carefully written, the ground tested. And they usually tell their spouse first.
But former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was not a traditional candidate nor did he have much of an appetite for carefully planned events. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the Governator recounts the night he spontaneously announced his bid for the state’s top role on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
“I just thought, This will freak everyone out,” he told Vanity Fair’s Michael Lewis. “It’ll be so funny. I’ll announce that I am running. I told Leno I was running. And two months later I was governor.”
Schwarzenegger said he had not decided to run until the car ride over to the Leno studio, where he was slated to promoted his new movie “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” His announcement that night in August 2003 was news to everyone, including his wife, Maria Shriver.
“I thought about it but decided I wasn’t going to do it. I told Maria I wasn’t running. I told everyone I wasn’t running. I wasn’t running,” he said. “I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a staff. I wasn’t running until I went on Jay Leno .”
The Austrian-born movie star rose to gubernatorial prominence as a political outsider in a state that was rife with discontent, plunging into financial collapse and looking for a fresh face to replace then-Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.
At the “Terminator 3? release, Schwarzenegger joked that he was the “terminator” of Davis’s future, a joke that rang true when he ousted Davis in the 2003 recall election. Eight years after he took office, his approval rating had plummeted to 25 percent and more than 12 percent of Californians were unemployed.
“You have to step back and say, ‘I was elected under odd circumstances. And I’m going out in odd circumstances,’” Schwarzenegger said. “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a spoiled brat.”
“You have to realize the thing was so much fun!” he continued. “We had a great time! There were times of frustration. There were times of disappointment. But if you want to live rather than just exist, you want the drama.”