The Moderator

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is either getting scared or getting more politically savvy.

His proposals last week to raise the state’s minimum wage—a move he previously vetoed—and to stall university fee hikes are signs of a dimming star who’s beginning to realize he’ll burn out come re-election time if he doesn’t broaden his support base now.

Politically, it’s a risky flip-flop. But Schwarzenegger probably decided he had little to lose after the resounding rejection slips voters sent his four so-called “reform” initiatives in November 2004. The only question is whether his gamble will alienate a greater number of conservative supporters than it will assuage liberals.

Early reactions indicate that both moves did more immediate good than harm: Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, called the idea of freezing fee hikes in 2006 “a very, very positive overture"; one that indicates his willingness to work across party lines. Hey, it even made us feel a little warmer toward the guy.

Most liberals view raising minimum wage, a political no-no for most Republicans and always opposed by powerful business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, as long overdue. Schwarzenegger’s proposal would bring it up $1 an hour, to $7.75 by July 2007, no small increase, but the first since 2002.

The governor’s appointment of Democrat Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff turned heads post-election. So far, his 2006-07 budget plan has unleashed two whoppers; we’ll learn more in his State of the State address Jan. 5. We can’t wait to see what else he has up his muscle-filled sleeve.