By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 06, 2003 11:00 AM

He’ll definitely be back as “The Terminator.” But Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California?

It could happen, according to the man himself. The new cover of Esquire magazine features a picture of Schwarzenegger, along with the declaration, “The Next Governor of California. Really.”

Inside, the Austrian-born the action star, 55, says: “Yes, I would love to be governor of California. … If the state needs me, and if there’s no one I think is better, then I will run.”

And he may run sooner rather than later, given that current Democratic Gov. Gray Davis faces a recall campaign that could result in a special gubernatorial election as early as this fall.

Though he’s married to Maria Shriver of the Kennedy clan (perhaps the nation’s most famous Democratic dynasty), Schwarzenegger is a Republican.

Still, Schwarzenegger’s political adviser, George Gorton, said the actor’s quote to Esquire doesn’t necessarily represent a change in Arnold’s thinking, reports the Associated Press.

“The bottom line is he hasn’t decided whether he’s going to run or not if the recall qualifies, and he’s so terribly busy right now,” Gorton said.

Any decision in the matter won’t be made until Schwarzenegger launches “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” on July 2, says Gorton, and then only if it becomes apparent that the recall will qualify for the ballot.

For that, nearly 900,000 valid signatures are required first, yet Gorton confirmed Schwarzenegger is already having discussions with political insiders and potential supporters.