Arnold Schwarzenegger is reportedly weighing a run for the US Senate raising the tantalising prospect of a showdown with Donald Trump on the political stage.
The Terminator star and former Republican governor of California is already engaged in a very public feud with the president, and has long been touted as a politician with the sort of name recognition and centrist credentials to tackle Mr Trump’s hardline policies on immigration and the environment.
His spokesman declined to dismiss the growing buzz that he plans a political comeback with a Senate run next year.
“Right now Governor Schwarzenegger’s focus is on using his platform to bring some sensibility and coherency to Washington by fighting for redistricting reform, like we did in California,’’ Daniel Ketchell told Politico. “We are keeping all of our options open as far as how we can accomplish that.”
The actor laid out his Never Trump credentials during the presidential campaign last year. He endorsed one of the New York businessman’s rivals for the Republican nomination and later said he would not be voting for Mr Trump in the election.
Since then the two have indulged in occasional public feuding.
Mr Trump has made much of The Apprentice’s falling ratings since Schwarzenegger took over his role as host.
Last weekend, Mr Trump tweeted: “Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show.”
For his part, the seven-time world bodybuilding champion has gently tweaked the president and suggested they trade jobs.
“I think he’s in love with me,” he said when pressed on their relationship during an interview this week on Sirius XM.
Entering the Senate with its chance to stymie Mr Trump’s legislative agenda could be the ultimate riposte.
In recent months Schwarzenegger has spoken out frequently about the need for reform of an electoral system that places too much power in the hands of the parties, increasing speculation that he is positioning to run as an independent and bring together anti-Trump voters on both Left and Right.
Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
He has spoken out against Mr Trump’s travel ban and frequently railed against the sort of climate change deniers that populate the administration.
However, his time as governor ended with record low approval ratings. In 2011, just after his term finished, it emerged he had fathered a child with his housekeeper 14 years earlier.
It's doesn't make for a sexy headline, but it's time to fix our rigged system and end gerrymandering once and for all, like we did in CA. https://t.co/Bt35DRdWtz— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) March 8, 2017
Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at New York’s Iona College, said Schwarzenegger may be able to take on Mr Trump at his own game by using his celebrity to make headlines.
He still faces the challenge of trying to win a Senate seat in a Democrat state.
“My question is whether he would be able to pick up some support from the anti-Trump folks who would like him to do battle with Trump,” she said.
You should think about hiring a new joke writer and a fact checker. https://t.co/SvAjuPdHfa— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) March 4, 2017
Mr Trump, who is facing a tough battle to get a healthcare reform bill through Congress, received some good news on Friday.
The Labour Department announced that employers had added 235,000 jobs in February – the first full month since Mr Trump took office.
Although the numbers represent the impact of Obama-era policies, Mr Trump immediately retweeted a headline from the Drudge Report, a Conservative news outlet, saying: “Great again!”
The numbers were better than forecast and represent the 77 th consecutive month of growth.
Good weather was in part responsible, allowing the construction industry to begin projects earlier than usual.