LOS ANGELES – Not everyone in the crowd gathered at California State University at Long Beach was happy to see gubernatorial hopeful Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) during his first major campaign speech Wednesday.
Schwarzenegger, running for Gov. Gray Davis' (search) seat in the California recall election, was hit in the shoulder by a raw egg as he shook well-wishers' hands on his way to the podium.
One of his handlers tried to wipe off the egg as the former bodybuilder ignored it and continued greeting the crowd. Schwarzenegger then removed his yellow sports jacket and appeared in just his usual collared shirt -- top button undone and no tie.
In his speech, the Republican actor described himself as the antidote to the status quo.
"California is making history with this recall election. The people have risen up -- 1.6 million people have signed the recall petition and they are saying we are as mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore," Schwarzenegger told a large audience at the school.
The speech came on the same day the other big-name candidates participated in their first televised debate, one that Schwarzenegger chose to skip.
After his speech, Schwarzenegger defended his decision to avoid the debate.
"I will be traveling up and down the state, and this is what I'm going to do," he said. "This is my plan to reach out. It has been successful in the past. You know me well enough by now to know that I'm good in marketing, I'm good in promoting. I've always done this well and I will do it well with this campaign."
From the dais, he tossed shirts to the students and promised them he would never raise tuition by 40 percent, as happened this year.
The speech was part of a new strategy that aides say should quiet GOP criticism that Schwarzenegger's campaign has lacked focus and failed to maintain momentum in the four weeks since the international film star announced his bid on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
For weeks, GOP strategists have privately complained that Schwarzenegger's campaign has frittered away time on handshake events that left nothing compelling in their wake. Aides say that's all about to change, and Schwarzenegger, through speeches, TV ads and campaign stops, will become the face of the recall.
"This is the beginning of the post-Labor Day launch, and it's our way of busting out of the blocks for the sprint to Election Day," Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman told Fox News.
Stutzman said the televised debate diffused the issues by not directly pointing out the failures of Democratic Davis.
"The real contrast in this race is with Davis," Stutzman said. "Davis is the face of special-interest politics. Ultimately, Davis is a proxy for [Lt. Gov. Cruz] Bustamante (search), and vice versa."
Schwarzenegger projected that theme in his speech.
"It all comes down to one thing, on October 7, the people of this state have a choice. If you think this state's economy is going in the right direction, go ahead and vote against the recall. If you're happy with the politicians and their performances, go ahead, vote against the recall. But if you believe California can't afford three more years of losing jobs then join me," he said to cheers.
The campaign also released three new TV commercials on Wednesday and was sending out a 60-second radio spot on Thursday. The new batch of ads also attacked special interests in the state capital.
"Special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento," the text of one ad reads. "Here's how it works: Money comes in -- favors go out. The people lose. We need to send a message: Game over."
Schwarzenegger's voice then tells voters: "If you want to change this state, then join me."
Two other 30-second spots released Wednesday follow the same general theme. Schwarzenegger is seen sitting with campaign volunteers. He tells them his campaign is about bringing "big change to Sacramento," and points out that California spends $29 million more per day than it collects in tax revenue.
Both spots call on voters to register by the Sept. 22 deadline.
Polling data show that voter intensity is strongest on the question of recalling Davis. In an election where turnout is crucial and where social conservatives are unlikely to warm to the socially libertarian Schwarzenegger, the campaign is working off the notion that it must keep conservatives in the "pro-recall" fold and recruit as many other "pro-recall" voters as possible.
Schwarzenegger also vowed to audit the state's budget, cut spending, abolish the scheduled 300 percent increase in the car tax and reform the state's costly workers compensation system.
"I know about this from my physical training -- the only thing Sacramento knows about pumping up is the taxes," he said.
Legendary GOP speechwriter Landon Parvin (search), who wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan, had been working on the speech for days.
Still, GOP consultants say party professionals who waited nearly a month for Schwarzenegger's campaign to stabilize are running out of patience.
"I remain concerned," consultant Kevin Spillane told Fox News. "I don't think they are focusing on the fundamentals. I'm disappointed in their message. It's more reactive than active. He's not driving any message home to voters. And there doesn't seem to be anyone organizationally running this campaign."
"I know they're starting to get feedback from us, and most of it isn't very positive," said GOP strategist Alan Hoffenblum. "There seems to be no follow-through with this campaign. When he's center stage, he does well or reasonably well, but when he exits the stage there's a big vacuum left behind."
Stutzman said problems arose as the campaign was still hiring staff while trying to respond to an avalanche of press questions and develop a coherent campaign strategy on the fly.
"I think those who are asking questions will find themselves satisfied after today," Stutzman said.
But Schwarzenegger has been warned that his attacks on special interests could raise questions about his own practice of taking money from real estate and business interests. Critics say his repeated vow to make California more "business-friendly" seems like an invitation for more contributions.
Stutzman countered that Schwarzenegger never said he would not accept campaign contributions, but only promised that he could never be "bought."
"It's a process question and we will never participate in the process of collecting big donations," Stutzman explained. "That's where you sit down with an interest group, fill out their questionnaire, give answers on their agenda and then get a check. We don't do that. We won't ever do that. If someone wants to help Arnold, they can. But he won't play that game."
On the Oct. 7 recall ballot, a simple majority of voters must vote "yes" on the first question of the ballot: whether to recall Davis. If Davis is recalled, his replacement will be the candidate who gets a plurality of votes on the second half of the ballot.