However while the two-day trip that began Wednesday will boost the political capital of both Republicans at a critical time, it will not translate into the financial aid the governor-elect needs for the embattled Golden State.

"It is a visit that shows that the Bush administration is really thrilled with Schwarzenegger's victory," said political science Professor Henry Brady of the University of California, Berkeley.

"This would never have happened if (ousted Governor Gray) Davis had stayed in office. Obviously, Bush is hoping to get electoral votes for 2004 (presidential polls), but I don't think that in return he will help California," Brady said.

Schwarzenegger said after winning the governorship in an electoral landslide a week ago that he would seek "a lot of favours" from the Bush administration to help dig the richest US state out of its financial hole.

With California limping under a budget deficit of up to 38 billion dollars, he vowed to claw back around 50 billion dollars from Washington in the form of taxes paid by Californians that the state does not get back.

Bush embarks on a two-day visit
to Californian state

Shared priorities

The president will meet the Austrian-born former Mr Universe and Hollywood action star on Thursday in Riverside, east of Los Angeles, for the first time since his election.

"The president very much looks forward to meeting with him. The two are both committed to work together on shared priorities," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Tuesday.

Moderate Republican Schwarzenegger has promised to lead California out of its financial woes which prompted voters to oust Democratic Governor Davis just a year into his second four-year term in last week's special elections.

But Brady and other experts said that while Bush, who has been circumspect in offering public support to the "Gover-nator," was probably delighted by his victory, he could not afford to write him a cheque.

"The president will lend Schwarzenegger a sympathetic, ear but the federal government also has a big deficit," Pitney said.

But while the visit may be low on real substance, it is significant, said California State University, Fullerton, political science expert Nancy Snow, and could help Bush boost flagging public support.

Very different

"Each of them can do favours for the other. Schwarzenegger has international appeal and reach that Bush may want to use to change his image problems due to Iraq," she said.

The commander-in-chief's visit, a stop-over on a trip to Asia, signals the growing importance of California, the most populous US state ahead of next year's presidential elections.

"Each of them can do favours for the other. Schwarzenegger has international appeal and reach that Bush may want to use to change his image problems due to Iraq"

Nancy Snow, political science expert
California State University

"But we must remember that Schwarzenegger is a very different Republican to Bush," said University of Southern California political expert, Professor Elizabeth Garrett.

While the traditionally liberal state overwhelmingly voted Schwarzenegger into power, its legislature remains Democrat controlled, mitigating the lawmaking power of Schwarzenegger and the Republicans.

"I see this election as a statement of disgust for incumbent politicians, not a real change in the partisan alignment of California," Garrett said.