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Total Recall: California’s Political Circus

It reads like a movie script. The year? 2003. The mission? Defeat hundreds of challengers to save the state of California and become its leader. But this wasn't a movie... it was a real-life election for governor that featured adult film stars, sumo wrestlers, comedians, and ended with the election of action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Total Recall: California’s Political Circus, CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash will unpack the scandal, partisanship, and celebrity of the Golden State’s 2003 recall election – and explore what it might have forecasted about politics today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 2003 is against a neon background containing the Hollywood sign and palm trees

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Throwing the Governor Overboard
Total Recall: California’s Political Circus
Sep 14, 2021

Despite the celebrity power of Arnold Schwarzenegger - the origins of the 2003 recall are hardly glamorous. Believe it or not, the movement started in the back of an old roller skating rink by a rumpled anti-establishment crusader. It was a “peaceful revolution” that ended in disaster for the incumbent Governor Gray Davis. In this episode, we’ll walk through how the 2003 recall started in the first place - what political factors were stacked up against Gray Davis, and how a movie star became the GOP’s best chance for victory.