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The governor behind the image confounds both sides in Calif.

LOS ANGELES -- After a year in which he lurched right, then left, many in California are wondering this: What does Arnold Schwarzenegger believe in?

Last fall, the Republican governor alienated independents and Democrats with a slate of losing ballot measures that would have given him more control over spending and undercut public employee unions. Then he promptly angered conservatives in his own party by naming a Democratic activist as his chief of staff and promoting a series of left-leaning initiatives.

Today, the Hollywood star-turned-politician arrives at an early juncture in his reelection campaign -- a keynote speech at the state Republican Party winter convention in San Jose -- with conservatives openly questioning why they should support him.

Is he the governor who sought new power to choke off state spending in 2005, or the one who this year called for record borrowing and submitted a budget that doles out $6 billion more than the state will collect in taxes?

Is he the governor who on his first day in office declared, ''My administration is not about politics," or the one who taunted Democrats as ''girlie men"?

Is he the governor who has rankled business interests by pushing for a higher minimum wage, or the free-market devotee whose agenda rarely deviates from that of the state Chamber of Commerce?

''When you look at the gyrations in his policies, it appears he's plagued by an absence of core values," said longtime Republican strategist Arnold Steinberg. ''He comes across as a caricature, where energy and enthusiasm are confused with core values."

Schwarzenegger has disputed suggestions of a new direction in 2006. ''Anyone who says I am changing my positions is totally wrong," he said last month.

Threats by activists to strip Schwarzenegger of the GOP nomination have gone nowhere. State Senator Tom McClintock, a conservative Republican running for lieutenant governor, has tamped down unrest on the right wing.

Nonetheless, conservatives at the convention have proposed resolutions that challenge Schwarzenegger's positions on the minimum wage (he wants it increased $1 over two years, to $7.75 an hour), judicial appointments (he has named nearly as many Democrats as Republicans to the Superior Court), and spending and borrowing.

As he begins his pursuit of a second term, the man who drove Democrat Gray Davis from the governor's office in a recall election with his centrist, apolitical appeal will have to find a way to reassure the right wing, without giving the Democrats and Independents he needs to win in November new reasons to distrust him.

Schwarzenegger faces adilemma familair among California Republicans: About 35 percent of the state's registered voters are Republicans, meaning he has to look elsewhere for votes.

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