California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Sen. John McCain in the Republican presidential race on Thursday, praising him as an “extraordinary leader” who can cross party lines to make progress.
McCain has "proven over and over again that he is reaching across the aisle in order to get things done," Schwarzenegger said.
At a news conference, Schwarzenegger said McCain has the national security credentials to do the job, and is a “crusader against wasteful spending.”
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani also attended the event, one day after he dropped out of the race and threw his support behind his longtime friend.
McCain is counting on both men — Schwarzenegger in California and Giuliani in New York — to help propel him to victory in the two biggest states holding primaries next week. Combined, they offer 271 delegates, more than a quarter of the 1,023 at stake in a Super Tuesday slew of primaries and caucuses.
Schwarzenegger delivered his endorsement after a tour of a solar-energy company, calling it the kind of factory that helps protect the environment while helping the economy. “That’s music to my ears,” he said.
McCain pledged he would work to leave the planet in better shape than it currently is. He has been a supporter of efforts to deal with global warming.
“Green technologies is one of the key ways” to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, he added.
Endorsements are adding up
Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of McCain is yet another setback for Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who saw Florida slip from his grasp Tuesday after McCain rolled up the support of that state’s two top elected Republicans, Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez.
Giuliani’s impact was being felt, as well, when several of his former supporters in New Jersey threw their support to McCain earlier in the day.
New Jersey has 52 delegates at stake in next week’s primary, and like New York, gives them all to the winner of the popular vote.
His strategy uncertain, Romney plans to offer himself as the conservative alternative to McCain as he pushes ahead in hopes of winning enough delegates to topple the Arizona senator when 21 states vote in the Republican contest on Tuesday.
Both McCain and Romney have signaled they intend to air television ads in at least some of the states on the ballot.
Schwarzenegger’s move comes as McCain plows toward the nomination, the only Republican candidate to have won three hotly contested primaries — New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida — since voting began earlier this month.
Schwarzenegger sat in the audience Wednesday as McCain and Romney shared a debate stage with Huckabee and Paul at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
McCain, the four-term senator, is running strongly ahead of all three in California. Candidates secure three delegates for each of the state’s 53 congressional districts they win in the primary, in which only Republicans can vote.
How McCain benefits in Calif.
Schwarzenegger’s political network certainly will be helpful to McCain, who has virtually no organized effort in California after his candidacy nearly collapsed last summer. The actor-turned-governor also is a prolific fundraiser.
But Schwarzenegger has a strained relationship with some conservatives in his own party and McCain, himself, is fighting to convince GOP rank-and-file that he’s committed to conservative values. Schwarzenegger’s nod could exacerbate concerns about McCain among the party establishment.
Schwarzenegger also is taking heat from state Republicans who argue he’s been too willing to bend to the wishes of the Democratic-controlled Legislature. At the same time, California faces a $14.5 billion budget deficit over the next year-and-half, and the governor has rankled the state’s powerful education lobby with his proposal to cut spending by 10 percent from state agencies to deal with the financial crisis.
McCain and Schwarzenegger have been friends for years, and the two share a bond over their work on global warming issues as well as their similar independent streaks.
The governor offered high praise of McCain throughout the campaign, calling him a "great senator" and "very good friend," and the two appeared together at the Port of Los Angeles last year. "We share common philosophy and goals for this country," McCain said at the time.
But Schwarzenegger always had stopped short of endorsing McCain, given that another friend, Giuliani, also was in the race.
Earlier this month, Schwarzenegger told reporters he would not make an endorsement in the GOP primary, saying then: "It doesn't help me, and it doesn't help the state of California." But senior advisers say Giuliani's departure from the race Wednesday changed the dynamics of the decision for Schwarzenegger, and he decided to go ahead with the endorsement as it was clear that Giuliani's candidacy was over.