- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The latest polls show that several days of reporting on accusations of sexual harassment against Arnold Schwarzenegger have dented only slightly support for recalling Gov. Gray Davis in the vote tomorrow.

The Austrian-born actor’s campaign tour of California came to a roaring conclusion at the state Capitol yesterday in front of 10,000 people buoyed by the poll figures and a live performance by 1980s rock star Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

A poll released by the San Jose Mercury News yesterday showed that 54 percent of likely voters support the recall, and 41 percent are opposed. Mr. Schwarzenegger led the 135 replacement candidates with 36 percent, compared with 29 percent for Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

On Thursday, the second day of the poll’s four-day period, the Los Angeles Times reported accusations against Mr. Schwarzenegger of sexual harassment by six women since the 1970s.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said internal campaign polling shows support for the recall at 57 percent, and a comfortable victory for Mr. Schwarzenegger.

The only change was the dip in the number of people who said they would “definitely” recall Mr. Davis — from 52 percent before the accusations surfaced to 44 percent on Saturday. In addition, 12 percent said they were undecided, a tripling of the figure before the weekend media coverage.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, conducted by Elway/McGuire Research, had a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

An earlier poll conducted three days before the Los Angeles Times story appeared found that the effort to recall Mr. Davis was favored by 57 percent and opposed by 39 percent — an 18-point gap only five points greater than the one in the Mercury News poll.

In his Sacramento speech, Mr. Schwarzenegger said he felt “an unbelievable momentum” toward recalling Mr. Davis, but did not allude to the sexual harassment accusations or reports in the New York Times on accusations that as a youth Mr. Schwarzenegger had sympathized with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

He stuck to his brief stump speech about the “need for leadership in Sacramento,” invoked President Reagan’s vision of “a shining city on the hill,” and pledged to repeal the recent tripling of the state car tax.

“Please bring me the broom,” Mr. Schwarzenegger told the cheering crowd. “We are here to clean house.”

The Republican film star also playfully strummed a guitar alongside Mr. Snider during a rendition of the Twisted Sister hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

A small group of protesters stood near the back of the crowd holding up signs — some of them laced with profanity — reading “Grope Me, Arnold” and “Stop the Real Life Predator.”

Some pro-life conservatives showed up, too, criticizing Mr. Schwarzenegger for his pro-choice stance on abortion.

Mr. Davis and state Democratic Party leaders have focused their final campaign efforts on the scandal, questioning Mr. Schwarzenegger’s fitness for office — and even suggesting that the actor be charged with crimes.

California Democrats say their polls show that the recall race is close to even, and staffers for Mr. Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat on the ballot, say they have pulled even with Mr. Schwarzenegger since the charges surfaced.

The key, say Democratic campaign staffers, is cutting into the 27 percent of Democrats who say they will vote to recall Mr. Davis, the most unpopular governor in the state’s history.

The accusations against Mr. Schwarzenegger have “helped them realize what they are about to do,” an antirecall aide said.

“If we just bring back a few percent of those Democrats, we have a chance to beat this thing,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been saying at these rallies the last few days: ‘Democrats, come home.’”

Mr. Davis was in Los Angeles yesterday, flanked by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Danny Glover as he signed a law that he predicted will provide health insurance to nearly 1.1 million working Californians without job-based coverage.

With a new Los Angeles Times story bringing to 15 the number of women accusing Mr. Schwarzenegger of sexual harassment, Mr. Davis challenged the daily denials issued by the actor’s campaign staff.

“Are all 15 women and their families lying?” he asked.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh said yesterday that many of the women making the latest accusations are Democratic activists and current or former employees of Mr. Davis.

During network TV interviews aired yesterday, Mr. Schwarzenegger dismissed the harassment accusations and reports that he had long ago praised Hitler as desperate, last-minute attacks of a losing Davis campaign.

“This is campaign trickery and it is dirty campaigning,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Like, for instance, I despise anything and everything that Hitler stands for.”

While he didn’t deny all the women’s accounts, he said none of them had told him at the time, “You went over the line now.”

In an interview aired last night on “Dateline NBC,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said that “a lot of it is made-up stories,” although he admitted that not all of it was untrue. He declined to be more specific.

The negative press, meanwhile, has caused concerns about the likely toll on Mr. Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver. Matt Drudge posted photos during the weekend on his Web site (www.drudgereport.com) that show Mrs. Shriver looking thin and frail.

Mr. Drudge also quoted a campaign insider as saying that Mrs. Shriver “has been suffering bouts of light-headed dizziness” and a TV reporter saying she was looking ill.

Mrs. Shriver has stood by her husband, saying at a campaign rally Saturday that Mr. Schwarzenegger “has the character to govern. He has the temperament to govern and he is a leader for all of you.”

In his “Dateline NBC” interview, Mr. Schwarzenegger said his wife knew what to expect. “This is the kind of thing that every political leader, anyone that is involved in politics has told me. And I talked to Maria about that,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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