If he had his druthers, Arnold Schwarzenegger would continue his 30-year-plus streak of voting Republican in the upcoming presidential election.
In his perfect world, he’d be casting a ballot for himself. That can’t happen, of course, because the actor-politician-businessman-bodybuilder-philanthropist-advertising pitchman is a native Austrian, from a bleak working-class town called Thal.
But a rags-to-riches immigrant can dream, can’t he?
“If I’d been born in America, I would’ve run,” he tells Adweek one early September afternoon in the offices of the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “Because now? This was a very good time to get in the race.”
What a different contest it would’ve been. Though purely hypothetical, political observers say the man dubbed “the Governator” during his two terms as California’s top politico, from 2003-2011, could’ve bested his friends Ohio Gov. John Kasich and eventual nominee Donald Trump in the primaries. Meaning Schwarzenegger would have been the one facing off against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, pushing his fiscally conservative, socially liberal version of the GOP, and also possibly reliving sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him in 2003 on the eve of the gubernatorial election. (He admitted back then that he had “behaved badly” and that at least some of the accusations were true, commenting, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” He apologized and, days later, won his first term with 48.6 percent of the vote.)
As the strangest presidential campaign in recent U.S. history winds down, Schwarzenegger is focused on interests beyond politics—entertainment and advocacy among them—and when it comes time to pull the lever, he says, he will be voting for anybody but Trump, as he urged his nearly 4 million Twitter followers to do. The tweet from Oct. 8 reads: “For the first time since I became a citizen in 1983, I will not vote for the Republican candidate for president. As proud as I am to label myself a Republican, there is one label that I hold above all else: American. So I want to take a moment today to remind my fellow Republicans that it is not only acceptable to choose your country over your party—it is your duty.”
(The tweet went out the day after a controversy erupted over Trump’s lewd comments about women on a leaked Access Hollywood tape. Schwarzenegger has not commented publicly on the election since.)
Those close to the action hero say the move was vintage Arnold, a closely considered decision shared in a way and at a time that suited him. This is the man, after all, who used NBC’s Tonight Show as the kickoff of his first campaign for California governor, donned a disguise and punked exercisers at Gold’s Gym in a fundraising video for one of his pet projects, regularly takes to the social site Reddit and (move over, millennials) has become the king of Snapchat at 69 years old. Schwarzenegger is a master of media and spectacle (see: his Austrian army tank destroying stuff for charity) and a born marketer who started building his personal brand long before there were best-selling books on the subject.