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Inside Politics

Poll: Support for recall, Schwarzenegger surge

Huffington withdraws from California campaign

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CNN's Bob Franken looks at the latest polls in the California race.
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Arianna Huffington tells CNN's Larry King she is quitting the recall race.
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CNN's Candy Crowley on Davis making another poor poll showing -- and Huffington's exit.
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California Recall
Gray Davis
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Government Debt

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- With less than a week to go before the recall election, a solid majority of likely California voters said they support removing Gov. Gray Davis from office, according to a new poll from the Los Angeles Times.

The poll, conducted September 25-29, found that 56 percent of likely voters supported the recall, while 42 percent said they opposed ousting the Democratic incumbent. A Times poll from early September showed 50 percent supported the recall.

Republican challenger Arnold Schwarzenegger made strong gains in the latest poll and was favored by 40 percent of likely voters, followed by Democrat Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante with 32 percent and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock with 15 percent.

Bustamante had led in the earlier September poll with 30 percent, followed by Schwarzeneggar with 25 percent and McClintock with 18 percent.

The film star-turned-politician also has opened up a 15-point lead in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, which was released Sunday.

In a bit of political timing not likely to help the governor, an increase in a state tax on vehicles goes into effect Wednesday, tripling the fee for many California drivers. The unpopular increase was part of Davis' plan to try to close the state's budget deficit, but the public anger it provoked helped fuel the recall drive against him.

On Tuesday, voters will first be asked whether to recall Davis. Then, they will move to a list of 135 candidates to choose a replacement who will take over if the recall succeeds.

Strategic voting urged

In the latest campaign development, independent candidate Arianna Huffington announced that she is pulling out of the recall race and will work to defeat it. (Full story)

"I'm going to concentrate every ounce of time and energy for the next week fighting to defeat the recall because I realize that that's the only way now to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger," Huffington said Tuesday on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I was against the recall in principle. I've always believed this is not the way to run a democracy," the 53-year-old writer and media commentator said. "But I also saw the opportunity provided to elect with a simple plurality an independent progressive governor."

Huffington drew 2 percent support in the recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. However, her backers include a bloc of liberal voters who could be crucial to Davis' survival.

Huffington stopped short of endorsing any of her rivals, saying she would urge her supporters to vote "strategically, but to make their decision just before the election."

"I want people to vote their conscience, but make sure that whatever their vote is, it does not put Schwarzenegger in the Statehouse," she said.

Huffington held out the possibility that she might endorse Schwarzenegger's nearest competitor, Bustamante. (Latino vote may be critical)

Told of Huffington's withdrawal during a campaign event in San Francisco, Schwarzenegger said, "That's too bad."

"She brought color and excitement to the race. I wish her good luck," said the GOP candidate, who sparred repeatedly with Huffington in a debate last week.

In the CNN interview, Huffington said the actor was a captive of a group of advisers allied with former Gov. Pete Wilson, who are "using Schwarzenegger to get back in control of the state."

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is a charming man. He's a nice man. But really, he has no idea how to run a state, and he's going to be run by the very forces that basically have destroyed so much of California," she said.

"He entered the race saying he's going to be an independent and surrounded himself with Pete Wilson operatives. He entered the race saying he's going to take no special interest money and has taken millions from developers, from agribusiness."

Huffington said she has a sense of "deja vu" about the race, recalling the 2000 presidential election in which President Bush called himself a compassionate conservative.

Independent candidate Arianna Huffington announced that she is dropping out of the race and will campaign against the recall.
Independent candidate Arianna Huffington announced that she is dropping out of the race and will campaign against the recall.

"And then we woke up with the nightmare of a warmonger who took a $500 billion surplus and turned it into a $500 billion deficit, [with] millions of jobs lost," she said. "If we elect Schwarzenegger, we are going to wake up to the same nightmare."

Earlier Tuesday before Huffington's announcement, Davis said she had brought "wisdom and clarity" to the recall race.

"I believe she's made a contribution to the dialogue that has begun over these last 70 to 75 days," he said. "... I would welcome her comments between now and the end of the campaign."

A two-way battle?

Davis rallied with union supporters Tuesday alongside Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. As he has in recent days, Davis cast the race as a two-way battle between him and Schwarzenegger. (The Morning Grind: Operation 'Cruz Who?')

"It boils down to whether or not you want to have a Republican, who takes a different view of this race, be governor, or whether you want to retain a governor who has fought for the last 30 years to advance the interests of working people," he said.

"Now is not the time to pass the baton to someone who thinks the best answer to questions is to provide some of the one-liners from his old movies. Life, and government, does not always go according to a script."

On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark is set to campaign with Davis against the recall.

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