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Inside Politics

Schwarzenegger's star power dazzles delegates

California governor recalls immigrant roots

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talks of his immigrant experience.
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Schwarzenegger addresses the Republican National Convention (part 1)
Schwarzenegger (part 2)

Bill Schneider reports on Schwarzenegger's appeal.
America Votes 2004
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Republican National Convention

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Describing his life as the embodiment of the American dream, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hailed his adopted country as "the best hope of democracy" and praised President Bush as the man to lead it.

"America gave me opportunities, and my immigrant dreams came true," the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger said. "I want other people to get the same chances I did, the same opportunities. And I believe they can. That's why I believe in this country, that's why I believe in this party -- and that's why I believe in this president."

Schwarzenegger's appearance before the Republican National Convention drew roars of approval from the delegates and guests, and his remarks often brought the crowd to its feet. (Transcript)

The former bodybuilder and action movie star sprinkled his speech with tongue-in-cheek references to some of his movies, saying Bush would "terminate" terrorism and dismissing last month's Democratic convention as "True Lies."

Some members of the California delegation wore "Terminator"-style glasses and donned pins reading "Girlie Men" with a slash through it.

"What a greeting!" Schwarzenegger said at the start of his speech. "This is like winning an Oscar! As if I would know."

Schwarzenegger's starring role at this convention comes despite some fundamental policy differences with Bush, such as disagreements on abortion rights and gun control, both of which Schwarzenegger supports.

It underscores the GOP's effort to use this convention both to reach out to moderate and independent voters, as well as rally its conservative base.

Schwarzenegger made note of his own bipartisan appeal. His wife is Maria Shriver, a member of the famously Democratic Kennedy clan. She sat in the president's box during her husband's speech, next to the first President Bush.

The governor of the nation's most populous state described growing up in socialist Austria in the shadow of the former Soviet Union and then coming to the United States as a young man.

Schwarzenegger said his political epiphany came in 1968 as he followed the race for the White House that year between Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon, who talked of limiting the role of government.

"I've been a Republican ever since!" Schwarzenegger said. "And trust me, in my wife's family, that's no small achievement! I'm proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the party of Ronald Reagan -- and the party of George W. Bush."

He spoke of his faith in this country's economic might and said of skeptics: "Don't be economic girlie men."

Schwarzenegger, whose friendship with the Bush family dates back to his days as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness in the first Bush administration, described the current president as a man of "inner strength" who has not been governed by polls in the war in Iraq, nor in the battle against terrorism.

"That's why America is safer with George W. Bush as president," Schwarzenegger said.

Some pundits have compared Schwarzenegger to another movie star turned California governor -- Ronald Reagan

But there's one key difference: Unless the Constitution is changed, Schwarzenegger, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, is banned from serving as president.

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