- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Top Democrats and Republicans began shifting their support to the front-runners in California’s recall race yesterday, trying to turn the chaos of a 135-candidate ballot into a race shaped by traditional party politics.

Although Democrats continued to oppose the effort to unseat Gov. Gray Davis, they began to rally behind Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the only high-profile Democrat among the replacement candidates.

A powerful group of Republican donors, meanwhile, stepped up pressure on Republican candidates trailing actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, fearing that the crowded field could split the party vote and give Mr. Bustamante an edge.

A new poll release yesterday shows that Californians are closely divided on whether to recall Mr. Davis, a change from earlier polls that suggested stronger support for the effort.

The Los Angeles Times poll found that half of likely voters support the recall effort, while 45 percent are opposed and 4 percent are undecided. The poll of 801 likely voters had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

State Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte said he might ask one or more of the four major Republican candidates to drop out of the recall race.

In addition to Mr. Schwarzenegger, high-profile Republicans on the ballot include former baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, businessman Bill Simon and state Sen. Tom McClintock. The Republican who funded the recall petition drive, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, dropped out.

Mr. Simon said yesterday that he felt no pressure to drop his campaign but acknowledged that the field could narrow.

“I’m always open to talking to people,” he said on CNN.

The Lincoln Club of Orange County, which includes some of the state’s top Republican donors, endorsed Mr. Schwarzenegger yesterday and called on the other Republican candidates to abandon the race.

“I think that other Republicans have to determine for themselves what impact their candidacy will have,” U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said before meeting with Mr. Schwarzenegger. “My guess is that an honest look at it would tell you that Arnold has a great chance of winning and the others should think about whether or not they want to stay in.”

Even if some candidates do drop out of the race, all 135 names will appear on the Oct. 7 ballot.

Mr. Davis’ name only appears on the first part, which asks whether he should be removed from office. On the second part, voters chose who should replace him if the recall succeeds.

“If there are more nos than yeses, it doesn’t matter what happens on question two,” Mr. Davis told reporters yesterday in San Diego.

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