- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

Prominent California Republicans are sharply increasing the pressure on state Sen. Tom McClintock to drop out of the gubernatorial recall election, clearing the field for Arnold Schwarzenegger after a poll showed the actor’s performance in Wednesday night’s debate was well-received.

“It’s everyone’s preference to have one Republican on the ballot,” said Mike Wintemute, spokesman for the California Republican Party. “How we get there is still in dispute. Will it happen on its own, or will it take more pressure in terms of endorsements?”

That pressure increased greatly yesterday.

The 58 members of the California Republican County Chairmen’s Association endorsed Mr. Schwarzenegger yesterday by a 40-9 vote with five abstentions.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who financed the signature-gathering phase of the state’s first-ever recall of a governor, will be in the state today to give his endorsement. Though a close friend of Mr. McClintock, Mr. Issa is expected to tap Mr. Schwarzenegger as the party’s best candidate to beat Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante as a replacement if Democratic Gov. Gray Davis is recalled Oct. 7.

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Mr. Issa refused to name his preferred candidate, but his statements indicated that he was going to ask the conservative Mr. McClintock, who trails Mr. Schwarzenegger as the Republican choice in all polls by at least 10 points, to step down.

“Tom made a promise to me that he, in fact, wouldn’t be a spoiler,” Mr. Issa said. “So the pressure is on Tom to decide whether that has become the reality, that he might be becoming a spoiler.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger has been racking up endorsements in the last few days. Conservative former gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon and former California Secretary of State Bill Jones, the last Republican to hold statewide office in California, announced their support for Mr. Schwarzenegger yesterday.

Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte, who served as co-chairman of Mr. McClintock’s bid for state controller last year, came out for Mr. Schwarzenegger on Tuesday. And Republican Peter Ueberroth, who dropped out of the recall race three weeks ago, may soon endorse Mr. Schwarzenegger, according to California Republican sources.

The California Republican County Chairmen’s Association’s endorsement was their first ever in a race involving more than one Republican.

“The meeting was part of an effort to unify the Republican Party in advance of the Oct. 7 election,” said Ron Nehring, chairman of the organization. “Most of the county chairman think that Mr. Schwarzenegger represents the best chance to restore a Republican vision to the governor’s office.”

A poll conducted by SurveyUSA released yesterday showed that 32 percent of registered voters in California thought Mr. Schwarzenegger was the winner of Wednesday’s debate. Mr. McClintock was the choice of 22 percent of voters, tying him with those who thought no one was the victor.

Only 13 percent thought Mr. Bustamante was the winner and 37 percent said they had a less favorable opinion of the lieutenant governor after the debate, second only to the 56 percent negative reaction to the combative columnist Arianna Huffington.

Though 46 percent of respondents had a more favorable impression of Mr. McClintock after the debate, 44 percent said the same thing about Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Among Republicans, 41 percent thought Mr. Schwarzenegger won the debate and 32 percent thought Mr. McClintock came out on top.

For his part, Mr. Schwarzenegger attempted to reach out to Mr. McClintock, who has vowed to stay in the race until the end, during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s national radio show.

“I respect him very much,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said yesterday in remarks simulcast on the Fox News Channel. “This is a decision he has to make. I think that it is obviously much better, mathematically speaking, when you don’t split the vote, and I think it’s very important for him to think about that. But I’m not going to be the one that pushes him.”

In a hint that a McClintock withdrawal would be rewarded, Mr. Schwarzenegger added that he is “looking forward to working with [Mr. McClintock] because I think that he and I would make a good team.”

Bill Whalen, research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif., said the slew of endorsements probably won’t force Mr. McClintock out of the race.

“Given the way Tom McClintock thinks and acts, it would take divine intervention to get him out,” Mr. Whalen said.

The purpose might not even be to get Mr. McClintock to step aside, Mr. Whalen said, “but to get around him” and convince enough of his traditional Republican supporters to throw their vote to Mr. Schwarzenegger.

“It’s an appeal to Republicans about winning or losing, and losing is never pleasant,” Mr. Whalen said. “You do a lot of long-term damage to the party if you blow this election. The stakes are even higher than Arnold thinks.”

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