California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (four words that still sound bizarre put together in that order) has been holding talks with one of the main Republican contenders for president, Rudy Giuliani. But despite some fine words, and just as when he met John McCain recently, he refused to publicly endorse him.
It's no surprise they're courting Arnold. If Schwarzenegger himself were able to run for president (he can't because he was born outside the US), his general popularity would probably make him a likely winner. But because he can't, the others are desperate to win the affections of one of the few big-name Republicans not tainted by Bush and Iraq.
There are also two big electoral reasons why Schwarzenegger matters in this campaign. First, with California among the states likely to move its primary election forward to February, it suddenly becomes a crucial state for the candidates as they battle to win their party's nomination. And then when the general election itself rolls round, Republicans know if they can find a way of winning California (none has done so since 1988) and its most-in-the-nation 55 electoral votes, the White House will almost certainly be theirs. Schwarzenegger's popularity will surely help there. He might not be The Running Man this time, but Arnold could have a big say over who the eventual winner is.