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."