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Details don't figure in Schwarzenegger's script

In news conference, candidate focuses on tough-guy image

LOS ANGELES -- In the 15 days since he announced his intention to run for governor of California, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been criticized by opponents and pundits for being long on publicity and short on specifics.

Those specifics were not to be found yesterday during Schwarzenegger's first news conference as a Republican candidate. Schwarzenegger -- whose platform up to now has consisted largely of promises to clean house in Sacramento and bid Democratic Governor Gray Davis "hasta la vista" -- gave a huge, hungry contingent of 200 journalists answers that had few details.

What specific cuts would he make to offset the cash-strapped state's projected $8 billion budget shortfall?

"How can you make really good decisions" on what to cut, he asked, arguing that even the size of the deficit is a matter of contention. "What I have to do is, when I go into office, is have a 60-day audit with an independent company. [Specific cuts are] something that we can't make right now because we don't really know the answers."

Would Schwarzenegger identify specifics soon?

"No. The public doesn't care about figures," he said. "They've heard figures for the last five years, figures and graphs and percentages and all this. What people want to hear is, are you willing to make the changes? Are you tough enough? And I am tough enough."

Schwarzenegger hit a few themes in his answers to just about every question yesterday: The people of California should not pay more taxes (barring earthquake or other catastrophe); state government has been overspending; businesses and jobs should be brought back to the state; there must be litigation reform and lower costs for workers' compensation; and he will be a new kind of governor, beholden only to the people.

Through it all, he volleyed back requests for specifics on how to solve the problems of the world's fifth-largest economy with the argument that only a "typical politician" would say he could come up with responses, two weeks into a campaign, to problems that had taken years to create.

"See, the people, you can't pull wool over their eyes," he said. "The voters are so smart it's incredible, and they know the people that are up [in Sacramento] now have gotten us into the position we're in . . . Are they willing to make the changes? I will make sure when I go to Sacramento that the first thing in my mind is the people, and when I talk about the people I mean everyone."

Last night, at an appearance with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in Santa Monica, Davis said Schwarzenegger's plan remained too short on details.

"Anyone who wants to take my job needs to have specific plans to be elected," he said. "Candidates cannot just have sound bites or rehashed phrases from old movies."

Meanwhile, a legal attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to push the recall vote from Oct. 7 until March was rejected by US District Judge Stephen V. Wilson. The ACLU had argued that outdated punch card voting machines in six counties with large minority populations were prone to failure.

Davis, the man at the center of the controversy, joined the battle Tuesday night.

In a speech before raucous supporters -- in which he also admitted he had made mistakes as governor -- he called the recall effort part of a "right-wing power grab," and a national one at that. He said the attempt to recall him was of a piece with the 2000 Florida recount.

Schwarzenegger refused to comment on Davis's claims yesterday. The former Mr. Universe said he would employ the same strategy he used as a bodybuilder -- focus solely on winning.

"Why would I worry about everyone else around me? It's not my style," he said. "Let everyone talk, let everyone make their statements, let everyone make their apologies for the last five years."

Schwarzenegger, who has never served in political office, drew heavily on his experience as a bodybuilder and action movie star yesterday. Asked how he would include the state's huge Latino population in his plans for economic recovery, Schwarzenegger, who supported a proposition to take state services away from undocumented aliens, said he is "very much pro-immigrant," and cited his work in after-school initiatives that served Latino children.

"I am very fond of the Latin community," he added. "I have done four of my movies in Mexico."

Schwarzenegger thanked reporters for being "very helpful" in his bodybuilding and acting careers.

"I could not have done it without you," he said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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