New poll shows Californians widely favor recall, Schwarzenegger

REDDING, Calif. (AP) -- With the campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis entering its final full week, a poll of the most determined voters released Sunday showed the Democrat could lose office by a wide margin, and put Arnold Schwarzenegger way ahead of everyone else trying to become governor.

Schwarzenegger barnstormed around California on Sunday, appearing before enthusiastic crowds in airport hangars. "This is now hand-to-hand combat. We are in the trenches. This is war," Schwarzenegger said, adopting a newly aggressive tone.

The Davis campaign unveiled another television commercial Sunday, accusing Schwarzenegger of ducking tough questions and refusing to debate, despite an offer this weekend by CNN's Larry King to have them face off on King's talk show.

The ad responds to Schwarzenegger's distortions of the governor's record on spending, health care and the environment, according to Davis campaign manager Larry Grisolano. The governor himself tried to stay above the fray Sunday, signing several bills dealing with HMO reform and patients' rights.

All the other major replacement candidates gathered for a public forum in Sacramento.

And some of California's major newspapers made their endorsements Sunday, urging voters to reject the recall on Oct. 7 and recommending nobody to replace him. "Davis is lucky: there are no replacement candidates worth a recommendation," wrote the San Jose Mercury-News.

The endorsements came out as a survey taken in the days after last week's pivotal candidates' debate showed Davis losing by a wide margin and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger way ahead of everyone else trying to become governor.

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

Schwarzenegger was the choice of 40 percent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante 25 percent and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock 18 percent of those surveyed -- suggesting Schwarzenegger could become governor even if Republicans split their vote.

The poll of 787 registered voters used a model for probable voters that assumes a relatively high 50 percent turnout among the state's voting age population. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, and was conducted Thursday through Saturday, CNN said.

Davis's campaign spokesman, Peter Ragone, attacked the numbers, noting that previous polls by other organizations showed much less support for the recall.

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

Gallup executive editor Frank Newport said 55 percent of the full sample of registered voters supported the recall -- a number more in line with previous polls. But support went up when Gallup looked at those who were very interested and said they were likely to vote. The 63 percent figure represented a best estimate of probable voters. "It looks like the turnout is skewed toward those who are anti-Davis," Newport said.

Schwarzenegger touched down in the tiny central coast town of Santa Maria Saturday, speaking before an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,000 people in an airport hangar, then flew on to the Monterey and Redding airports.

He delivered now-familiar promises to reform Sacramento and restore California's lost glory, then ended with a dark warning to his supporters to be on the lookout for Davis to go negative.

"Desperate Davis is going to do all kinds of tricks, he is going to do all kinds of tricks, he is going to start a dirty campiagn now, we know how he is," Schwarzenegger said.

Actually, the Schwarzenegger campaign went negative first, airing anti-Davis ads all last week before the governor began responding in kind on Friday.

The Los Angeles Times, Mercury News and Sacramento Bee each called for "no" on recall and made no candidate recommendations for the second part of the ballot. The San Diego Union-Tribune editorialized that, while recalling the governor would set a dangerous precedent, Davis' performance demands his removal -- and Schwarzenegger is the one who can turn Sacramento around.

The Oakland Tribune, meanwhile, urged readers to vote "no" on the recall, but also endorsed Schwarzenegger.

The candidates' forum in Sacramento, sponsored by Asian Pacific Islander American Political Association, includes debates for and against the recall and another ballot question, Proposition 54, which would bar the state from collecting racial data.

The event is expected to focus on issues important to Asians and Pacific Islanders. The format calls for each of the gubernatorial candidates to make a brief presentation and take questions from the 500 people expected to attend.

Dr. Ivy Lee, president of the Sacramento-based Chinese-American Political Action Committee, called the forum unique for Asian-Americans in California, and a "significant symbol that we're no longer going to be ignored."


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