The dramatic slap in the face of a politician regarded until recently as invincible - largely because of his movie-star aura - left a question mark over Mr Schwarzenegger's viability for the last year of his term and his campaign for re-election in November. It also sent a troubling message to the national Republican Party, which had regarded Mr Schwarzenegger as one of its fastest-rising stars. The four ballot measures Mr Schwarzenegger had endorsed were intended principally to increase his own powers, especially over the state budget, and to diminish the influence of California's public service unions - teachers, firefighters and nurses - who have been among his most ferocious critics.
The governor's agenda was straight out of the Republican Party handbook - a big mistake, according to critics from both major parties, because it demolished his claims to be the "people's governor", viscerally opposed to partisan politics. At a time when President Bush's approval ratings have been sinking fast, the election was saddled with more baggage than even a former bodybuilding champion could handle. Speaking after the election, Republican consultant Dan Schnur said: "Schwarzenegger was elected as a centrist. He's governed as a centrist. But over the last several months, Californians have seen only the conservative Arnold."
Mr Schwarzenegger made a public statement before the results, sparing himself the embarrassment of a concession.