WASHINGTON – President Bush on Wednesday called California's new governor-elect, movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger (search), to congratulate him on winning the state's recall election.
"The president said he was proud of the race he ran, and he looked forward to working with him," White House spokesman Scott McClellan (search) reported.
Schwarzenegger said, "He promised me he would do everything possible to help California, and so I'm looking forward to working with him and asking him for a lot, a lot of favors."
Wednesday evening, Bush celebrated Schwarzenegger's win at a Washington gala raising money for the Republican National Committee (search).
"There's a lot of happy folks here tonight," Bush said, ticking off baseball fans no doubt excited to see their teams in the playoffs and then adding -- to cheers from the crowd: "There's some happy people from California."
White House officials left open the possibility that Bush would meet with Schwarzenegger next week in California. The president is expected to make two fund-raising stops there next Wednesday for his re-election campaign before he heads to Tokyo, the first stop on an Asian trip.
Two California Republicans with ties to the White House said Bush and Schwarzenegger are likely to make a joint public appearance in Riverside, Calif., next Wednesday.
Asked what Bush, a former governor, thought of the chaotic process that replaced Democratic Gov. Gray Davis with Republican Schwarzenegger, McClellan answered: "He said it was interesting to observe from a political standpoint. ... The people of California have spoken."
Republicans in Washington and California were heartened that Schwarzenegger's victory will boost Bush's prospects for winning the nation's largest state next year. California will carry 55 electoral votes, the most of any state.
Bush lost California in 2000 by 1.2 million votes.
One of the California Republicans said Schwarzenegger's campaign helped fuel a surge in GOP registrations this year, by about 130,000 voters, and dramatically drove up Republican fund raising in the state.
"The Democrat party and the Democrat presidential candidates should take heed," said Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.