LOS ANGELES, Nov. 6 - A startling change has come over California's larger-than-life governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as voters prepare to head to the polls on Tuesday for an unpopular statewide election. His television advertisements have taken on an uncharacteristic tone of humility. And ordinary people, no longer awed by his Olympian1 persona, are openly challenging him in public.
The four ballot measures Mr. Schwarzenegger supports are trailing in the polls, and his re-election prospects next year appear, for now, to be dimming. His approval ratings are in a tailspin, and his stage presence has been drained of much of its bombast and bluster.
At a televised forum here last week, with audience members picked to represent a cross-section of voters, several questioners interrupted Mr. Schwarzenegger and accused him of distorting facts to sell the four ballot measures, which are among eight up for a vote in an election ordered specially by the governor.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was explaining Proposition 75, a measure he favors that would require public-employee unions to receive the written permission of members before their dues could be used for political campaigns.
Democrats and union leaders who oppose the proposition have called it a naked attempt to silence the unions' political voice. The governor says the proposition is about protecting workers' paychecks.
An audience member who gave his name as Chris Robeson and said he was a health care worker from Camarillo angrily cut the governor off. "That's just Rovian spin," Mr. Robeson said, referring to Karl Rove, the White House political guru. "That's fraudulent."
Which is why George W. Bush does the handpicked thingies; he can't stand the truth.
1. A subtle reference to "Hercules in New York," perhaps? A conservative would call this "liberal bias," but I'd call it wallowing in understatement.