Two days after the Democrats took at drubbing at the polls across the country, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) referred to leaders of the state's majority party as "losers."

At a Thursday news conference, the Republican governor who branded Democrats "girlie men" during a budget fight last year was asked whether he would listen to tax-increase proposals from Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (search) or other Democratic leaders.

"Why would I listen to losers?" Schwarzenegger asked. "Let's be honest."

As soon as he made that remark, however, he tried to suggest he was referring not to Democrats themselves, but to their tax increase proposals.

Schwarzenegger said that Democrats had "lost every single ballot in the Bay Area" and that "the big spenders wanted to go with increased taxes, many different taxes and fees and all kinds of things and lost all of that."

"And in Los Angeles it lost. People don't want to be taxed," he said. He added: "Why would we go and follow a losing formula? It doesn't make any sense."

Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said the governor was talking about ballot measures in the Bay Area (search) and in Los Angeles that lost at the polls Tuesday.

A spokesman for Perata declined to comment on the remark.