Wealthy businessman Peter Ueberroth yesterday quit the Oct. 7 California gubernatorial recall contest.
Political analysts said the departure of Mr. Ueberroth, a liberal Republican running as an independent, might give a slight boost to actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the leading Republican candidate.
Mr. Ueberroth was one of three major Republicans seeking to replace Gray Davis as governor on Oct. 7, when voters will be asked whether they want to recall the Democrat, and — if he is recalled — who should replace him.
Mr. Ueberroth, the chief organizer of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, garnered a mere 10 percent in a Sept. 1-4 state Chamber of Commerce poll. The survey of 1,005 likely voters, released yesterday, had him placed fourth in the candidate field, which has more than 100 contenders — most of them unknowns.
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat, led with 33 percent. Mr. Schwarzenegger was second with 28 percent and state Sen. Tom McClintock, a conservative Republican, was third with 12 percent. Former Republican gadfly Arianna Huffington, who is running as an independent, was fifth with 3 percent.
The chamber poll has an error margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The order of candidate finish in the poll was similar to that reported by a Field poll, also released yesterday, of 505 likely voters.
But unlike in the latter poll, a majority (52 percent) of likely voters said in the chamber’s survey that they plan to vote to dump Mr. Davis, with 41 percent opposed to recall and 6 percent undecided.
Those who said they were sure to vote for removing Mr. Davis were 48 percent of the total likely voters sampled, which “indicates he would most likely be recalled if the election were held today,” the chamber poll concluded.
The poll results gave Republicans heart: The top three Republicans had a combined vote of 50 percent — more votes than Mr. Davis gets on the recall question and more than Mr. Bustamante gets on the successor question on the same ballot.
What’s more, Mr. Schwarzenegger becomes the overall front-runner when likely voters are asked for their choice if Mr. McClintock were to drop out, according to the chamber poll. It found that 49 percent would pick Mr. Schwarzenegger and 42 percent would favor Mr. Bustamante, with 6 percent undecided, if the election were between only these two men.
Also, the chamber, which said it had never endorsed a statewide candidate of any party before, gave the nod to Mr. Schwarzenegger, saying he is the “most pro-jobs candidate” and has a realistic chance of winning.
Some Republican officials in the state renewed their calls for Mr. McClintock to remove himself from the contest to give Mr. Schwarzenegger an early boost over Mr. Bustamante.
Two of the state’s best-known members of Congress, Reps. David Dreier and Dana Rohrabacher, endorsed Mr. Schwarzenegger early in the contest, and President Bush, though officially neutral, has said the actor would make a good governor.
All told, at least 22 state and federal elected Republican legislators from California have endorsed “The Terminator,” as have the antitax Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and two powerful agriculture groups, the California Farm Bureau Federation and the Western Growers Association.
Mr. Ueberroth had been prepared to spend several million dollars of his own money and funds his campaign had raised on a TV-radio ad blitz in the remaining weeks of the campaign.