- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Californians will vote today on whether to recall Gov. Gray Davis, with movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger leading the pack of replacement candidates.

All polls leading up to the historic recall election today show that voters are likely to oust Mr. Davis, the most unpopular governor in the state’s history. The Democrat, cognizant of his grim prospects, promised Sunday night to do a better job as governor if given the chance.

“I worked hard. We don’t go home until 9, 9:15, and try to get to bed by 11:30,” Mr. Davis said on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” “But all my time is spent in my office in Sacramento. I have to spend more time, and I have to attend town hall meetings. I have to spend more time with voters.”

That time could be short. A poll released Saturday night by Knight Ridder found support for recalling Mr. Davis at 54 percent, with 41 percent opposed. However, that poll — of 1,000 registered voters in the state and having a margin of error of three percentage points — revealed a slight dip in the number of people who said they would definitely vote yes on the recall.

That shift follows a recent series of stories in the Los Angeles Times about accusations that Mr. Schwarzenegger sexually assaulted women during his 30-year career in Hollywood as a bodybuilder and movie star.

The Republican actor blames the stories on Democratic operatives, accusing them of “playing puke politics” and planting the stories. The Times denies any such collaboration with Mr. Schwarzenegger’s political enemies.

Veteran California political consultant Joe Cerell said he has “no evidence that the Democrats were behind it.” If they were, he said, the timing would have been better.

“Are they enjoying the story? Yes. Are they spreading it? Yes,” Mr. Cerell said. “But if the Democrats had this stuff, it would have come out a lot sooner than it did. Now it’s just too late.”

Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat on the ballot to replace Mr. Davis, still trails Mr. Schwarzenegger by at least five percentage points in most published polls. Democratic campaign staffers, however, say internal tracking polls show that the stories of sexual assault have reduced support for recalling Mr. Davis and eroded backing for Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Mr. Bustamante highlighted the point at a campaign rally yesterday in East Los Angeles.

“I think this is a very serious situation that we have right now and, you know, one surprise after another with this guy. I think we’ve probably had one too many surprises,” Mr. Bustamante said.

At the first of several stops on a last-day blitz in San Jose, Mr. Schwarzenegger surrounded himself onstage with women, seen as an attempt to dampen the negative stories.

“The choices are clear: Do you want to go backward with Gray Davis, or do you want to move forward?” Mr. Schwarzengger said in a brief speech that never addressed the sexual-harassment accusations.

Maria Shriver, his Kennedy-family wife, repeated her stump-speech defense of Mr. Schwarzengger being a “great father and husband.”

Mr. Davis spent the day trying to convince Democrats to “come home,” a theme he has focused on since polls showed him that 27 percent of Democrats say they will vote yes on the recall.

Registered Democrats have received telephone messages recorded by former President Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Barbra Streisand, urging them to turn out. Democratic political consultant Phil Giarizzo said Mr. Davis doesn’t stand a chance unless the party can use allies like labor unions to “get the vote out.”

“I would hate to say that Davis is finished,” Mr. Giarizzo said. “Everything is going to hinge on turnout on the Democratic side and whether that will counter the great number of absentee ballots” that normally swing to Republicans.

Mr. Davis released an ad early yesterday attacking Mr. Schwarzenegger and featuring popular Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

“In recent days, serious allegations have surfaced with respect to the governor’s opponent,” Mrs. Feinstein says in the ad. “We should all give this serious consideration.”

The left-wing advocacy group Moveon.org spent $500,000 to run anti-Schwarzenegger ads in major markets in the state yesterday.

“If you’re a woman, or your mother is a woman, or your wife, or your daughter, or your sister, if there’s a woman at work, you cannot vote for this man because Arnold Schwarzenegger has a serious problem with women,” the ad’s narrator said.


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