Total Recall: California’s Political Circus


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It reads like a movie script. The year? 2003. The mission? Defeat hundreds of challengers to save the state of California and become its leader. But this wasn't a movie... it was a real-life election for governor that featured adult film stars, sumo wrestlers, comedians, and ended with the election of action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Total Recall: California’s Political Circus, CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash will unpack the scandal, partisanship, and celebrity of the Golden State’s 2003 recall election – and explore what it might have forecasted about politics today.

Episode Date
Lights, Camera, Politician
In 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger was arguably the most famous person in the world, which made him an unstoppable political force. And though it felt like a unique moment in history, celebrity and politics have a rich and complicated history. In this episode, we dig into the origins of the “celebrity candidate”, the challenges fame brings to a campaign, and how Schwarzenegger used his larger-than-life persona to find political success.   To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Sep 22, 2021
Throwing the Governor Overboard
Despite the celebrity power of Arnold Schwarzenegger - the origins of the 2003 recall are hardly glamorous. Believe it or not, the movement started in the back of an old roller skating rink by a rumpled anti-establishment crusader. It was a “peaceful revolution” that ended in disaster for the incumbent Governor Gray Davis. In this episode, we’ll walk through how the 2003 recall started in the first place - what political factors were stacked up against Gray Davis, and how a movie star became the GOP’s best chance for victory.  To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Sep 14, 2021
Welcome to the Circus
You probably remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California. But do you remember how it all happened? The blackouts, the budget and of course, the car tax! CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, takes you back to the origins of the 2003 California Recall and talks with Schwarzenegger and the man he beat, Gray Davis to learn why this election became such a circus. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Sep 08, 2021
Hasta La Vista Gray Davis
Join us for the stranger than fiction story behind the 2003 California recall election that replaced a sitting governor with America's most famous action hero. We'll unpack the scandal, partisanship and celebrity surrounding this circus and explain how it may have influenced our current political reality. CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash talks to key players including the two men at the very center of it all: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis. To learn more about how CNN protects listener privacy, visit
Aug 20, 2021