Polls show Bustamante leading recall race

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Trailing the Democratic front-runner in the latest poll for governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger strode into the territory of his leading Republican opponent Monday in search of support from the conservative wing of his party.

As GOP leaders continued to warn that Republicans must unite behind one candidate or risk losing the race to replace Gov. Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger scheduled two appearances Monday afternoon on conservative talk radio programs.

The appearances came as a Los Angeles Times poll showed Schwarzenegger trailing Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante 35 percent to 22 percent with the Oct. 7 recall election just six weeks away. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Schwarzenegger, long portrayed as a fiscal conservative who is moderate on such social issues as gun control and abortion, led other GOP candidates.

The exit Saturday businessman Bill Simon elevated state Sen. Tom McClintock to the position as the most prominent conservative in the race. As a result, analysts said Schwarze-negger's appearance on the talk shows appears designed to keep McClintock, who finished third in the poll with 12 percent, from gathering up all the votes that would have gone to Simon, who had 6 percent.

"He wants to make sure that he inherits Simon's support, and that he can limit the amount that goes to McClintock," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "He wants to make himself acceptable to conservatives and unify the party against Davis."

Although Schwarzenegger's campaign so far has sought to appeal to a cross-section of Democrats, Republicans and independents, analysts also say he can't win without the backing of conservatives.

"The arithmetic is such that he understands he can't do it simply by being the moderate guy," said University of Southern California political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe.

"He's not going to be able to bring in, I think, as many Latinos, as many Democrats, as they thought they might be able to, so he's got to move his party's base, and he's got to prevent Tom McClintock from looking like a serious opponent."

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman downplayed the appearances.

"Arnold's going to continue to talk about his fiscal conservatism in all types of venues," he said Monday.

Schwarzenegger's talk-radio debut comes as Republican party leaders continue to suggest that more Republicans drop out of the race to replace Davis if the recall is successful.

"Without prejudging who the strongest candidate is, what I'm sure of is that four weeks from now, if we still have three active Republican candidates, then Cruz Bustamante will finish first in the recall ballot test," Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte told The Associated Press on Monday.

But Ueberroth told reporters in Sacramento on Monday that he has no intention of leaving the race, and McClintock has said the same.

"The polls today won't be the polls at the time of the election," Ueberroth said. "There will be enough people who will understand the depth of the problems for this state and then they will go into the voting booth and make a decision -- who is the person who can best get us out of this problem. I think enough of them are going to say I'm the candidate."

A McClintock aide also dismissed Schwarzenegger's radio outings as superficial and unlikely to draw any conservative support.

"If he embraced conservative principles, then he has the opportunity to pick up conservative votes," said McClintock deputy campaign manager John Stoos.

Also Monday, Schwarzenegger picked up support from New York Gov. George Pataki, whose fund-raising team is planning a $1,000-a-person event on his behalf in Manhattan, according to a copy of an invitation obtained by The Associated Press. And, a source close to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Giuliani was likely to endorse Schwarzenegger.

Meanwhile, another major development awaited the fast-moving campaign Tuesday, when the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO was to decide at a convention whether to endorse Bustamante's "No on recall, yes on Bustamante" theme or stick with flatly opposing the recall.

Several unions, including the state's powerful teachers' union, have already endorsed Bustamante's strategy. But backing by the California Labor Federation would be particularly significant because the group has been a key opponent of the recall and played a leading role in trying to keep Democrats off the ballot.

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