"That's what's wrong with the Constitution," he said he told her, referring to the citizenship requirement blocking him from the presidency. "Miss Alaska is beating Mr. Universe."
Not a laughing matter?
The audience of magazine executives laughed, but Alaska's governor might not have. "She didn't think it was that funny," Mr. Schwarzenegger said.
In an on-stage interview with Rick Stengel, the managing editor of Time magazine, Mr. Schwarzenegger said people should stop predicting a McCain loss on Nov. 4. "People always count him out at the wrong time," he said. Ms. Palin's executive experience as a mayor and now governor prepared her well to run, he added. "I think that she would be a great vice president," he said.
The governor, a moderate Republican, also defended the reaction of Bush administration officials to the ongoing financial crisis. "All of them have done a terrific job," he said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was more critical when she opened the conference here on Sunday.
Mr. Schwarzenegger is in no position, however, to antagonize Washington; he warned Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson last week that California may need an emergency loan because of the collapsing credit markets.
'Rely on government'
The government, particularly Congress, contributed to the conditions that triggered the meltdown, but it remains the only hope for stemming the damage, Mr. Schwarzenegger added. "We have to rely on government now to solve the problem," he said.
He frequently charmed the audience, particularly in advocating American action to fight global warming, and earned a standing ovation at the end of the interview. The onetime box-office giant also set off laughter when he remarked on campaign trail dynamics, accidentally reminding the crowd of his role in "The Terminator."
"As you know, it's such a difference between when we have a normal discussion about something or when you are on the campaign trail," he said. "You sometimes end up talking like a machine."