Arnold Amazement The World Over

The Govenor of Arnold Schwarzenegger's homeland, Styria Waltraud Klasnic, the former governor Josef Krainer and Alfred Gerstl, a friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger, applaud during a election party in a bar in Graz on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2003. (AP Photo)
AP
From an Internet chatroom in China to Arnold Schwarzenegger's boyhood home in Austria, the world marveled Wednesday at a uniquely American political triumph with more suspense than a Hollywood script.

After partying the night away, dignitaries and admirers in Schwarzenegger's home region celebrated his victory in the race to become governor of California by claiming him anew as one of their own.

In a local bar, dozens mingled over a breakfast of scrambled eggs and coffee, breaking into cheers and applause when Schwarzenegger's victory speech — dubbed into German — was broadcast live on big-screen TVs.

"He's one of us," Waltraud Klasnic, the governor of Schwarzenegger's home province of Styria, told reporters. "This is going to push us a little bit more into the foreground on the international stage."

Schwarzenegger has "a large task ahead of him, and we are confident that he will succeed in bringing California out of the crisis," Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said in a congratulatory message.

"His success, at first in sport, then professional and now political, shows America and the world what good workers Austrians are globally," Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

France's interior minister was first in Europe to react to Schwarzenegger's win, reports CBS News Correspondent Elaine Cobbe. He said he has mixed feelings, but it's still quite an accomplishment.

"Someone who's a foreigner in his country, who has an unpronounceable name and can become governor of the biggest American state — that's no small achievement," Nicholas Sarkozy told RTL radio.

"He's won, so no more Schwarzenegger movies for four years," commented a French newscaster wryly.

Schwarzenegger's victory led the main morning news programs in Russia, where the news broke as Muscovites were waking up and heading for work.

NTV television reported that "the third generation Terminator will lead the state," where it said voters believed in his promises to restore order after blaming outgoing Governor Gray Davis for economic problems.

"Many still associate `Iron Arnie' with a hero who saves the world from the bad guys," NTV reported from the United States.

In China, a communist dictatorship that does not elect its leaders and brooks no dissent, several Internet users posted messages on a news commentary board at the popular Web site Sohu.com.

"This cannot be imagined in China," said one, who did not sign the message.

Illegal copies of Schwarzenegger's movies are big sellers on the streets of Chinese cities, where they can be bought for less than US$1.

In Japan, television news gave the Hollywood star's victory top billing, underscoring the strong Japanese appetite for U.S. entertainment and politics.

"It's the American dream," said Hideya Sugio, the anchor of the evening news at TBS, a national network.

Fellow former actor and ousted Philippine President Joseph Estrada, speaking by telephone from his military hospital detention suite, urged Schwarzenegger to serve the people well by bringing his on-screen heroics to the tangled reality of politics.

"The so-called learned people, with all their master's degrees, have no monopoly on leadership," said Estrada who has been detained on corruption charges since being deposed in massive protests two years ago.

Back in Austria, Frank Bogen, a 73-year-old former diplomat, described how he spent the night listening to television updates on the race, and said many here feel a strong emotional connection to Schwarzenegger, who became a U.S. citizen in 1984.

"He has real friends here," Bogen said. "Even though he's a full-fledged American, he has never denied where he came from."

The breakfast celebration took place in downtown Graz — a historic city in southern Austria just a few kilometers (miles) from Schwarzenegger's boyhood home, Thal.

The night before, hundreds of partygoers packed into the bar to cheer Schwarzenegger.

Chanting "Go, Arnie, Go!," celebrants sipped "Governator" and red, white and blue "Stars-and-Stripes" cocktails in the bar, which was decorated with "Join Arnold" campaign flyers and red, white and blue balloons.

One partygoer, Lisa Anderwald, a 21-year-old makeup artist whose family lives in Schwarzenegger's former home, came to show her support for the man who got her a job working on special effects during the filming of "Terminator 3."

"I just wanted to say thank you," Anderwald said. "He's a hardworking man — and he really helped me."

"We are of very proud of him," the mayor of Thal, Peter Urdl, told The Associated Press by telephone. "We went to school together and he was always very driven. He's always achieved what he wanted to achieve."

Many at the celebrations said they're convinced that Schwarzenegger could become U.S. president one day if he sets his mind to it — and if the constitution is changed to allow foreign-born Americans to run.

"If they ever change the constitution, it would be for him," Bogen said. "And it would be proof that in America everything is possible."