After starting out riding a wave of popularity, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has found governing to be a challenge. In November, a number of initiatives in the special election he sponsored went down to defeat in the state, leaving many to question whether he will be able to win reelection next year.
On Monday, Mike Spence, president of the California Republican assembly, joined MSNBC's Tucker Carlson to discuss whether his group will endorse the governor in the state's GOP primary.
To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
TUCKER CARLSON: California politics is very complicated. Most of us don't understand it. Explain to us what the political considerations might have been behind the governor's decision (Monday) to refuse clemency to Tookie Williams?
MIKE SPENCE: We were troubled by the process. And we were concerned about where the governor was heading on this particular decision. You know, he has a track record over the last two years. He has pardoned 30 times, or paroled 30 times as many people as Gray Davis, the Democratic Davis did in five years, and so we were a little troubled about where this was heading. But we're obviously, based on the evidence, pleased that clemency was not granted.
CARLSON: Overall, how dissatisfied are core Republicans with Governor Schwarzenegger at this point?
SPENCE: Well, since the special election, there's been a lot of dissatisfaction. He had the way had the clemency hearings were done. He's proposed a world record of state spending on bonds -- through bonds, $50 billion. That's $100 billion with interest. We're going to hear more about that.
And of course, he appointed a liberal partisan Democrat to be chief of staff. Someone who was in the Davis administration as the cabinet secretary and actually was the former executive director of the Democratic Party. And that's very troubling to Republicans that believe in things and believe in ideas.
CARLSON: Yes, but no offense, sir -- no offense, but I'm from California. I know something about Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a liberal when he was elected. Everybody knew he was a liberal. Everyone knew he was a social liberal, probably a big spender. He turned out to be both of those things.
Can you say you're surprised?
SPENCE: Well, I'm not completely surprised, but he campaigned as a fiscal conservation. The line even hires vocal talent. The line we always here is that he's a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. And the reality is, Republicans have swallowed a lot of different things over the years to be supportive of the governor in these last few years.
But now he's abandoning all fiscal conservatism by supporting this bond. ... And that's a problem for us.
CARLSON: So Mel Gibson for governor. That's the option people are talking about. I'm not knocking it. It's California, anything could happen. But why would Mel Gibson be a better governor than Arnold Schwarzenegger?
SPENCE: I think Mel Gibson knows what he stands for and can articulate that to people. So we have a long history of people getting involved. He brings instant recognition. And in the entertainment-side why political industry we're going to ask in a few years, and the particularly sequel involved in politics.
... that's why we set up the web site, MelGibsonforGovernor.com. So that people can - - and we can gauge the interest for this type of campaign.
CARLSON: Because California needs another actor with a foreign accent as governor. Actually, I bet he'd be a great governor, I have to say. Controversial though. All right. Mark Spence, thanks for joining us. I really appreciate it.
SPENCE: Thank you, Tucker.