- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — A new poll shows California voters overwhelmingly support a campaign to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and favor Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace him in the Oct. 7 election.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday had 63 percent of probable voters saying they would vote “yes” on the recall question, and 35 percent voting “no.”

On the question of who should succeed Mr. Davis — the second part of the two-question ballot — Mr. Schwarzenegger was the choice of 40 percent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante 25 percent and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock 18 percent. That indicates Mr. Schwarzenegger could become governor even if Republicans split their vote.

If a majority of California voters decide to oust Mr. Davis, whichever replacement candidate gets the most votes becomes governor.

The poll of 787 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, and was conducted Thursday through Saturday, CNN said.

Mr. Schwarzenegger barnstormed around California yesterday, talking to invited crowds in airport hangars, while all the other major candidates seeking to replace Mr. Davis gathered for a public forum in Sacramento.

Mr. Davis aired a new television commercial accusing Mr. Schwarzenegger of ducking tough questions and refusing to debate.

Some of California’s major newspapers made endorsements yesterday, most urging voters to reject the recall on Oct. 7. “Davis is lucky: There are no replacement candidates worth a recommendation,” wrote the San Jose Mercury-News.

The CNN poll was the first survey published since last week’s debate among gubernatorial candidates. Previous polls showed a much narrower margin of Californians favoring the recall, and an even race between Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Bustamante.

Davis campaign spokesman Peter Ragone attacked the numbers.

“It’s a joke,” Mr. Ragone said. “It is so far from what every other public poll and every other internal poll by both Democrats and Republicans have found.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger is focusing his message on the incumbent’s shortcomings.

“We plan to spend the rest of this campaign reminding voters that the real question of the election is whether or not they want the status quo in Sacramento, with the government controlled by special interests, or whether they want real change,” said his spokesman, Todd Harris.

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