Davis, Bustamante build strategies to beat Schwarzenegger
Davis: "I have gotten the message"
SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- The historic -- and often murky -- recall race for California governor appeared to be taking shape Monday, with poll figures showing Arnold Schwarzenegger the strongman to beat, and both embattled Gov. Gray Davis and the only prominent Democrat running to replace him offering hints of their campaign strategies.
In TV interviews, Davis insisted he has heard the discontent of his state's voters loud and clear and is working "harder to solve people's problems," while Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante cast himself as, in certain ways, the opposite of Schwarzenegger. "I'm an average guy," he said, emphasizing, "I am probably the only non-millionaire in the race."
Both men, speaking less than a day after a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released its results, took Schwarzenegger to task for having done little, if anything, as of yet to show what his platform would be or how he would get anything done.
The Austrian-American bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician was in New York for a previously scheduled talk at an inner-city after-school program he helped found. "Have big dreams," he told a group of children in the audience at the City College of New York. "That was my secret. And go after those dreams."
In the poll, 42 percent of respondents said there is a good or very good chance they would vote for the charismatic movie star in the October 7 recall election, while Bustamante had the next-highest rating at 22 percent. Nearly two-thirds said they would vote to recall Davis.
"I have gotten the message," Davis told NBC's Today Show. "I understand a lot of people signed the recall. We are trying very hard every day to solve people's problems."
The governor acknowledged, "There's a lot of frustration and disappointment out here. I get it. I'm doing my best to work harder. ... And I hope that now that we have a budget behind us, we will have the time to keep solving problems for people."
Asked about Schwarzenegger, he said, "I think Arnold Schwarzenegger will be the first to tell you he's got a long ways to go to explain what he would do as governor."
Bustamante, on CNN's American Morning, highlighted Schwarzenegger's lack of political experience. People who want to protect and further the progress the state has made on key issues, he said, will need a candidate "who can not only articulate and make sure they can say the words, but people who have been able to do it and fight and make sure they understand how to do those kind of things in California."
The excitement about Schwarzenegger, he added, "is going to wear for a while and then I think we're going to get back to a real campaign. ... We're going to have to start talking about issues."
Schwarzenegger has pointed to his wealth as a strong suit, arguing that he won't need money from special interests and can therefore be impartial.
But Bustamante presented his relative lack of wealth -- and lack of screaming fans begging for an autograph -- as a different kind of strong suit.
"I am an average guy trying to do an above-average job," he told CNN. "I think there is a clear distinction between me and many other candidates. ... I'm the only Democrat in the race, and if you look at the folks on the other sides of the aisle, the other candidates, I am probably the only non-millionaire in the race."
He cited his opposition to a car tax and additional fees in state colleges and universities, which he said would unfairly burden working class and middle class families.
Bustamante also repeated his opposition to the recall effort. But, he said, given that voters will decide separately whether to recall Davis and who his replacement should be if he is recalled, "vote Bustamante just in case."
Davis reiterated his argument that the recall "is an insult to the 8 million people who went to the polls last November" and will waste $70 million in badly-needed state funds. He also criticized President Bush, saying, "when the economy's doing better, a lot of the problems that are occurring out in California go away."
Davis said he is asking former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton to campaign for him, noting, "They're very well thought of in California ... and I think they can bring independent validation to some of the good work that we've done."