Commentary: Can Schwarzenegger make another comeback?

It has been more than five years since Arnold Schwarzenegger rode triumphantly into Sacramento from Hollywood, carrying the hopes of Republicans, independents and more than a few Democrats that a novice outsider could somehow balance the budget while cutting taxes and preserving essential services.

It was not to be. Schwarzenegger did cut taxes, but he has since increased them. He did preserve most services for a while, and even expanded them, probably too much. Now he is cutting them. And the state's chronic budget shortfall is still with us. With 18 months to go as governor, Schwarzenegger has failed so far to accomplish the one thing voters most wanted him to do.

But is it too late? Schwarzenegger today seems almost irrelevant, his proposals shot down by voters, his public approval rating in the tank, and his friends in the Legislature few and far between. Yet that is almost exactly where he stood at the end of 2005, and a year later he swept to a landslide re-election. Perhaps he has one more comeback in him.

We hope so.

The first step in that recovery might be for Schwarzenegger to take responsibility for the mess the state is in. He was elected as a reformer to shake up the status quo in Sacramento, but he too quickly bought into the local customs instead. Eager to show "progress," he embraced the Capitol's backroom wheeling and dealing with gusto when he should have been using his tremendous public support to attack the establishment's sacred cows. The result, on the budget at least, was too much debt, too many gimmicks and too little real progress, unfortunately.

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