SACRAMENTO: While Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor continued to ride a wave of media enthusiasm based largely on his celebrity and outsider status last week, some say that his decision to surround himself with advisors to California's last Republican governor could open a new line of attack against the action-adventure star.
Although Schwarzenegger, who currently stars in Terminator 3, made yet another big media splash last week by naming investor Warren Buffett as an economic advisor, he also spent the week putting together a campaign team that bears a striking resemblance to that of former Governor Pete Wilson, who is also advising the Schwarzenegger campaign.
Partisan opponents say they plan to use the ties to Wilson against the actor, as he continues to cast himself as an outsider.
"The Democratic party will clearly use Pete Wilson as the poster child for the Schwarzenegger campaign," said California Democratic Party senior campaign consultant Bob Mulholland. "We needed something to neutralize the fizzle, and now we have it," he added.
Last week, Schwarzenegger named Wilson's longtime strategist Bob White, a partner in public affairs shop California Strategies, as a top adviser.
Following White are several other political communications and public affairs veterans with ties to Wilson, including Wilson's former deputy chief of staff Pat Clarey.
Also joining the team is Marty Wilson, a one-time SVP at Burson-Marsteller, who is currently an MD at public affairs firm Public Strategies. Sean Walsh, who was a press secretary for Wilson, is Schwarzenegger's chief spokesman.
Schwarzenegger's team also includes GOP media guru Don Sipple, who helped create a series of controversial anti-illegal-immigration ads for Wilson's reelection campaign that were criticized as anti-Latino.
Some experts said the appointments could help opponents open the only feasible line of attack against the actor - who continues to dominate early polls - by calling into question his outsider status. They also underscored that Latino voters could be turned off by Schwarzenegger's candidacy if opponents can make the association with Wilson stick.
"I don't think there's any question that his opponents will try to undercut his credibility as an outsider because of his association with Wilson," said Robert Deen, GM of Ogilvy PR Worldwide's Sacramento office. "[Wilson] could potentially hurt him, especially in the Latino community. I don't think there's any question about that. Whether they make that stick is another matter."