Oct. 27, 2010— -- After seven years in office, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing for his next act.
State voters will head to the polls Tuesday to elect a new governor, and the man who was once "Mr. Universe" finds himself leaving office deeply unpopular.
Schwarzenegger's approval rating hovers in the low 20s, matching that of his predecessor, Gray Davis. Both candidates fighting to succeed him, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown, have taken shots at Schwarzenegger on the campaign trail.
Still, the governor hopes that a public eager for him exit stage left will hold on to some of his ideas. Californians will consider Proposition 23 on Election Day, a ballot measure that would literally throw some of the governor's centerpiece policies onto the junk heap. It could permanently stall many of his energy and environmental policies, which, critics say, eliminate jobs.
"The same players are back trying to destroy our environmental policy," Schwarzenegger, a Republican, told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "Now, the important thing is we push back, wipe out Proposition 23. ... It'll be one of the first times in a long time where oil companies, and the rich people who have polluted the world and have enriched themselves by doing that, have been pushed back."
The governor also pointed to environmental successes in California, including ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gases, plans to build the largest solar electricity plant in the world and work to develop electric cars.
"The Chinese had outdone us. We built the biggest solar plant in 1980, then the Chinese came and outdid it because they're always there to flex their muscles," Schwarzenegger said. "Now, we're going to outdo them... In California, we're the biggest solar plants."
Schwarzenegger says California's energy policy successes should serve as a model for the nation.
"We need to go to Washington and say, 'Look what happened. Because oil companies have spent money against you, have threatened you, you backed off the energy policy and the environmental policy in Washington.' What wimps. No guts," he said.
"We're going to go back to Washington and say, 'This is how we did it,' and we're going to give them encouragement."
Asked Sawyer: "And when the oil companies say you'll lose more jobs this way?"
"We'll say, if they're interested in creating jobs, then go ahead and spend the millions and millions of dollars you're using for those ads, use it for job creation," Schwarzenegger said. "Help them get jobs but don't just talk about it, spend all this money and try to wipe out our environmental policy."
Arnold Schwarzenegger: 'Politics Destroys Everybody'
Schwarzenegger rode into Sacramento on a wave of voter anger in a 2003 recall election. He won reelection in 2006 with more than 55 percent of the vote.
Now, the man the media dubbed the "governator" will soon step down from office, and the experience seems to have soured him on partisanship and negative politics.
"Politics destroys everybody," he told Sawyer. "The more you can take the politics out of things, the more you can accomplish. Because otherwise, it becomes kind of like, 'I'm representing my party. My party is not happy with this. We're doing it this way.'"
Schwarzenegger, 63, says he'll continue his work on environmental issues and political reform, but he plans to stay out of office.
The father of four and husband of Maria Shriver has a busy family life, with everyone pursuing their own projects. Shriver's Women's Conference just brought together many important figures from government, media, and other fields with an audience of 30,000 in Long Beach, Calif., and daughter Katherine recently published a book on body image, titled "Rock What You've Got."
"When I come home at night and we have dinner, there's no phone calls accepted. The kids aren't allowed to have cell phones at the table," Schwarzenegger said. "I think the whole idea is not to bring home my job... just concentrate on the kids."
Schwarzenegger uses the time at the dinner table to check up on his kids and share advice, like one bit of wisdom Sawyer asked about.
"I read in your daughter's book," Sawyer said, "she says you said to her, 'If you don't get up at 5:30, you can't get anything done.'"
"Yeah," Schwarzenegger replied. "I'm not going to tell you that you have to be the person like me who goes out always trying to accomplish something... I said, but if you want to accomplish a lot, in the morning is the action because you get your training done, you get your reading done, you get your preparation done."
And Schwarzenegger is certainly preparing for his own future, with plans to write a memoir after leaving office. Publishers have offered him book deals for years, he says, but until now, he never had the time.
"I can sit down with those publishers that were after me and say, now, I'm interested. I have a real story to tell about going from bodybuilding, going into business, going to the movie business, then the political arena and all this."
'I'll Be Back' in Theaters?
A return to the movies could also be in the cards. There are rumors that Schwarzenegger has already met with Hollywood director James Cameron and is waiting for the right script.
"You're already letting the door open?" Sawyer asked. "What would most interest you about going back to the movies?"
"If James Cameron or Ivan Reitman or someone that I trust ... they come with a great script, great idea where I look at things and say, 'That's me. I can play that,' it could be something like that," the governor said. "But it's not like I'm out there saying I'm looking for an acting job because I have plenty of money. I never have to work again."