What Makes Them Run?

08/14/2003 AT 10:35 AM EDT

Now that he is running for office, the truth must be told: Arnold Schwarzenegger makes quilts. That's right, Mr. Tough Guy Terminator with hundreds of movie kills to his credit made a Mother's Day quilt for his wife, Maria, a few years ago. Okay, so he didn't actually sew it himself. But he did screen family images onto fabric swatches and have them hand-stitched together. "It included photos, their wedding invitation, birth announcements, handprints of the kids, and he picked everything out," says Wanda McDaniel Ruddy, one of the bridesmaids at the Schwarzeneggers' 1986 wedding and still a close family friend. "He spent a year creating this quilt, and now it's their bedspread. Arnold is very sentimental."

There you have it: the would-be governor of California is tough on fiscal issues, liberal on social issues and has a major soft spot for his wife, Maria Shriver, 47. Likewise, as Schwarzenegger, 56, a Republican, begins his campaign to replace embattled Gray Davis in an Oct. 7 recall election – essentially running as the true embodiment of the American Dream, or, if you prefer, Horatio Alger in a Speedo – he does so with the blessing of Shriver, the mother of his two sons and two daughters, ranging in age from 5 to 13, and a member of the country's reigning Democratic dynasty, the Kennedys. Theirs is the sort of Odd Couple convergence that, 26 years after the fact, is still going strong. "They are true partners," says Arnold Kopelson, who produced Schwarzenegger's 1996 movie Eraser. Says Schwarzenegger's friend and former publicist Charlotte Parker: "Arnold and Maria are a great love story. They had an immediate attraction, and they still have a tremendous mutual respect for each other."

The coming months may put their bond to the test. By entering the field of competitors in California's recall election – a distinction he shares with veteran politicians as well as a porn actress and grown-up child star Gary Coleman – Schwarzenegger is looking to take on one of the most formidable messes in recent political history. California is burdened with a $38 billion deficit and the lingering aftershocks of a crippling energy crisis. And Schwarzenegger's not exactly a seasoned politician. "He just says, 'Hasta la vista, baby!' and 'I'm gonna pump you up!'" says Democratic political consultant Paul Begala. "Politicians have to at least fake the notion they are running because they have a set of ideas. He doesn't even pretend."

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