Cal. GOP Mulls; Dems Make Move

California Gov. Gray Davis, right, shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante at the California Democratic Party statewide convention Saturday, Sept. 13, 2003, at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles. AP

California Republicans gathered for their state convention Saturday amid intensifying calls for the party to unite behind one of its two major candidates in the campaign to replace Gov. Gray Davis.

On the other side of town, the California Democratic Party voted Saturday to endorse Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante while continuing to support Davis in the Oct. 7 recall election, adding momentum to a strategy the governor had long resisted.

But Davis and Bustamante showed unity Saturday, shaking hands on stage while Democratic delegates cheered.

At the Los Angeles Convention Center, 85 percent of more than 600 Democratic delegates voted to endorse Bustamante. The party had voted in March to oppose Davis' recall.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's supporters are trying to persuade party members to rally behind their candidate, who leads state Sen. Tom McClintock in the polls. But McClintock is favored by many in the party's conservative base, which worries about Schwarzenegger's more moderate social views, including support for abortion rights and domestic partnerships.

CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen points out that, "while Schwarzenegger has the star power, McClintock has his own following where it counts."

Political analyst Jack Pitney told Bowen McClintock "knows the issues. He's articulate. And he's able to appeal to the conservative base and that comes right out of Arnold Schwarzenegger's hide."

McClintock also is gaining on Schwarzenegger in the polls, although both trail Bustamante. A recent Field Poll found Schwarzenegger and Bustamante in a statistical dead heat if McClintock dropped out of the race.

Support for Davis' ouster, strong when the recall campaign began, has been fading: A Los Angeles Times poll released late Thursday found 47 percent of likely voters are inclined to vote against the recall, compared with 50 percent who support it. The shift has sent high-profile Democrats flocking to the state to align their political fortunes with the governor.

In his speech to delegates at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, Schwarzenegger appealed for unity, invoking the name of Ronald Reagan, the state's most revered Republican figure.

"In 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a speech called 'A Time for Choosing.' That is what we face here today," Schwarzenegger said to the crowd of about 500. "We as Republicans have a choice to make: Are we going to be united or are we going to be divided? Are we going to win in unity with our common fiscal conservative principles or let the liberals win because we are split? Are we going to fight Davis and Bustamante or are we going to fight among ourselves? I say, let us unite for victory."

The speech did not mention McClintock, who was to give his own address to delegates Saturday evening.

The Northridge Republican was buoyed by a new Los Angeles Times poll showing him edging closer to Schwarzenegger. The poll shows Bustamante with support from 30 percent of likely voters, Schwarzenegger with 25 percent and McClintock with 18 percent. He has shown no signs of backing down.

Across town, Davis was addressing a meeting of state Democratic Party leaders, who were expected to endorse a "No on recall, yes on Bustamante" strategy.

The weekend GOP convention was seen as a watershed for Schwarzenegger, a chance for him to convince the party's most conservative members that he would support their principles if he becomes governor.

The Hollywood superstar entered the conventional hall at the LAX Marriott to an extended standing ovation, and his speech was interrupted frequently by applause. Midway through his remarks, however, a handful of protesters appeared within yards of Schwarzenegger and unfolded a large banner reading, "Sexual misconduct is not a family value" before being hustled away by security officials.

Schwarzenegger continued his speech uninterrupted. He has been dogged throughout the campaign by old magazine interviews in which he boasted about his sexual exploits and referred to women as sexual objects.

At stake is the governor's seat if voters recall Davis on Oct. 7. Some Republicans fear that having two top candidates on the ballot will split the GOP vote and hand the governorship to Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat among the 135 candidates on the recall ballot.

Some Republicans who like McClintock said they have to be realistic in choosing who to support.

Delegate Dottie Van Eckhardt, from Yuba City, called McClintock "a lovely man" but said she was supporting Schwarzenegger.

"I think McClintock probably is more experienced, but Arnold can win," she said.

Schwarzenegger did not address the division within the party when he spoke to about 700 cheering supporters at a morning rally outside the convention site, but instead repeated his theme focused on improving the state's economy.

The split within the state GOP was evident outside the convention, where about a half dozen abortion opponents rallied against Schwarzenegger, who is pro-choice.

"We're here because Arnold Schwarzenegger claims to be Republican when he does not have much in common with Republican Party principles," said 18-year-old Nick White of Lake Arrowhead, holding a "Baby Terminator" sign. "We're pretty much trying to send the message out that McClintock is a true Republican."

Republicans in California have a history of supporting candidates too conservative for the left-leaning state, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 44 percent to 35 percent and control all statewide offices and both houses of the Legislature.

The state Democratic Party, meanwhile, held their emergency meeting to decide whether to endorse Bustamante's strategy of voting against the recall but supporting him on the ballot's second question.

Several prominent Democrats already have endorsed Bustamante's presence on the second part of the ballot as a logical "safety net" if Davis loses the recall. In recent campaign appearances, Bustamante has begun de-emphasizing the "no on recall" message to focus on his own candidacy, angering some labor leaders and other core Democratic supporters.

But the lieutenant governor attempted to heal any rift within the party with a surprise appearance at the Democratic Party meeting at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Bustamante and Davis were expected to speak to delegates at different times.

Instead, Bustamante appeared on stage in the middle of Davis' speech, as a stunned audience of about 1,000 party members stood and erupted in applause. The two men, who have often had a bitter relationship, shook hands.

"People wanted to see us stand together, so here we are," Davis said.

Davis' speech signaled a shift in his strategy, in which the governor would campaign more aggressively against Schwarzenegger and McClintock. Previously, the governor emphasized a theme that sought to cast the recall election as a Republican power-grab.

"The Republican distortions will not go unanswered," said Peter Ragone, Davis' campaign spokesman before his speech.

On Sunday, Davis will campaign with former President Bill Clinton, the first of several prominent Democrats headed to California this week to support the embattled governor.

Specifically, Davis' camp will try to counter statements by Schwarzenegger and other recall supporters that seek to capitalize on the weak economy.

Schwarzenegger has stressed the state's budget deficit - once more than $38 billion but now reduced to an estimated $8 billion - and in a television commercial said the state is spending $29 million a day more than it is collecting.

Earlier this week, however, state Finance Director Steve Peace said that in July and August the state took in more revenue than it spent.

Under a new budget approved this summer, the state is bringing in about $6 million more in revenue than it spends per day, but that is partly due to heavy borrowing.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is paying money saying California is losing $29 million a day. That's simply not true," said Ann Lewis, a strategist with the Democratic National Committee temporarily working in California against the recall. "He thinks people don't care about facts. We're here to tell them that they do."
  • Dan Collins

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