In an interview for CNN's new podcast, the action star-turned-politician-turned-action star looked back on his 2003 recall election victory and the parallels with California today

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Arnold Schwarzenegger
Credit: Dave J Hogan/Getty

Arnold Schwarzenegger has more thoughts to share on the California gubernatorial recall election that will wrap up next week, nearly 20 years after he became governor under similar circumstances.

The actor-turned-politician-turned-actor, 74, sat down for a recent interview with CNN's Dana Bash for her new podcast Total Recall: California's Political Circus, which premieres Wednesday, in which he compared the situation surrounding his own recall election win in 2003 — when he ousted Gray Davis — to the state of California today. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, will face voters in a special election set to take place Sept. 14, though mail balloting is already underway, after a Republican-led campaign gathered enough signatures to require a recall.

Newsom is being challenged in the second attempted recall to reach an election in California, the first of which took place in 2003, when Davis lost to Schwarzenegger. 

Schwarzenegger, who is the most recent Republican governor of California, told CNN he believes Newsom's possible recall comes in "exactly the same atmosphere as when I ran."

He linked Davis' unpopularity in 2003 — largely over persistent blackouts and power issues — to current issues with the state government and the conservative-fueled ire at Newsom, who has also been criticized over his handling of COVID-19.

Polling shows residents are divided in their approval of Newsom's job performance, but he has argued there's "too much at stake in this moment" if Republicans replace him.

Governor Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom
| Credit: AGUSTIN PAULLIER/AFP via Getty

Schwarzenegger explained on CNN that "People talk about blackouts, people are not happy with education, people are not happy with what's going on with the inequality in the state. It's out of control, the situation, and this is why there's anger ... so it's the same anger."

When Bash pointed out that "there's no Arnold Schwarzenegger on the other side of the ballot," the Terminator star replied, "Newsom can hope … and figure out how to be Arnold Schwarzenegger for a second. Even as a Democrat, I don't know."

Schwarzenegger, who is friends with Newsom as well as others in the recall race, did not offer any official endorsements in the special election but did tell Bash, "There are people in the race that have some really good answers and that have some good solutions." 

He added, "They will figure it out. The day is going to come very soon … the chips will fall in that particular case in the way they may, and so be it."  

The New York Times reports that 80 candidates initially planned to challenge Newsom in the election but only 46 ended up submitting paperwork to appear on the ballot by the July deadline. 

Among the challengers are former mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer, Republican state assemblyman Kevin Kiley, State Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines and reality star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Caitlyn Jenner
From left: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Caitlyn Jenner
| Credit: Jim Bennett/WireImage; Robin Marchant/WireImage

Not long after Jenner announced her candidacy in April, Schwarzenegger appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, where he told the host "anyone has a chance" in the recall election because "the people are dissatisfied with what's going on here."

"The key thing about all of this is it doesn't matter if it's Caitlyn or anyone else — you have a clear vision of where you want to go, what are the kind of changes you want to make and why are you qualified to become governor," he continued. "That's what you have to convince the people. All the other stuff is all nonsense, because the press will attack you no matter who you are. They attacked me. But then in the end I won, so that was the main thing."