- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

California’s Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday President Obama will lead his state and the nation to economic recovery, standing beside the Democrat despite supporting Mr. Obama’s rival during the 2008 election.

Mr. Schwarzenegger trumpeted the $51 billion in funds California is getting from the president’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan, calling it a great package that benefits the state “tremendously.”

“I’m so happy we are getting these kind of benefits from the federal government and from President Obama,” the governor said, calling the president a “fantastic partner.”

Mr. Obama was finishing out a two-day swing through Southern California with a town hall meeting. He touted the administration’s housing plan and new Web site MakingHomeAffordable.gov, and told Californians his stimulus plan would create 396,000 jobs.

Earlier at an electric vehicle plant in Pomona, Mr. Obama announced a $2.4 billion challenge grant for the creation of long-lasting batteries and parts for electric vehicles, saying he has a goal of putting 1 million hybrid cars on the road by 2015.

The money will allow for upgrades of factories and create jobs, he said.

“Show us that your idea or your company is best suited to meet America’s challenges, and we will give you the chance to prove it,” he said. “We’re also making a $400 million down payment on the infrastructure necessary to get these cars on the road. And because these cars won’t leave the showroom unless consumers buy them, the recovery act includes a new tax credit of $7,500 to encourage Americans to plug one in at home. True to form, true to form, California has already forged ahead with its own plans rather than wait for Washington.”

The president also announced $145 million from the Housing and Urban Development Department that would be used in California to rehabilitate vacated homes and for mortgage assistance for low- and middle-income families.

At the Los Angeles town hall, Mr. Obama fielded questions on education, health care and the high cost of living in California.

Mr. Schwarzenegger lavished praise on the man his wife, Maria Shriver, had endorsed before Super Tuesday in 2008 despite his own support for the Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

The governor said Thursday it “doesn’t matter what party affiliation … we must work together especially during difficult times like right now.”

“I want to thank him publicly for the courageous leadership and the great commitment that he has displayed over these last few months,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said. “We are partners in the fight to get people back to work. We’re doing everything we can to get the U.S. and California economy back on track.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger, the actor-turned-politician who won his seat in 2003 during the recall of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, was re-elected in 2006 and has hinted he may be interested in a Senate seat one day.

The Republican governor also praised the city’s Democratic mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.

“The age of ‘Yes, we can’ begins today,” said Mr. Villaraigosa, using the Obama campaign slogan. “Mr. President the people of this town are ready to get back to work.”

The president repeatedly has said during the campaign-style swing he loves the Golden State’s weather, and joked when Mr. Schwarzenegger was introducing him that he wanted it to go on longer because he’d been “soakin’ in some rays” outside.

Mr. Obama was to appear on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno Thursday night before returning to Washington.

Mr. Obama for a moment mocked people who “suggested I shouldn’t be on Leno” or who think he’s handling too much at once.

“I say our challenges are too big to ignore,” he said.

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