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McClintock: 'In the race to the finish line'

California State Sen. Tom McClintock
California State Sen. Tom McClintock

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With one recent poll showing actor Arnold Schwarzenegger falling behind Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante in California's gubernatorial recall race, some top Republicans are urging other GOP candidates to drop out of the race.

Businessman Bill Simon, the GOP nominee against Gov. Gray Davis last year, dropped out over the weekend. But Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock says he's in the race for good. McClintock, in Sacramento, California, spoke with CNN's Judy Woodruff on Tuesday. The following is an edited transcript.

WOODRUFF: It's not just Republicans, but Arnold Schwarzenegger himself who said yesterday that you and all the other Republicans should get out of the race, so that he can win. What do you say?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, look, I know War Admiral doesn't want to race, but Seabiscuit does. And this is one horse who is in the race to the finish line.

WOODRUFF: Well, does that mean under no circumstances you're going to pull out?

MCCLINTOCK: That's precisely what it means, Judy. I don't know how else I can put it.

WOODRUFF: Well, we know that there are a number of Republicans who are saying publicly and privately that you and Peter Ueberroth could get out. Who's been saying that to you privately?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, I have not gotten any calls. I keep reading the comments in the newspapers. But I'm kind of old-fashioned about this. I think we ought to have a campaign first and then let the voters decide who wins it.

WOODRUFF: You mean, no one has said to you, Tom McClintock, that you shouldn't run?

MCCLINTOCK: No. No. We've gotten no calls whatsoever.

The only call I got from the White House was several weeks ago to assure me of the president's neutrality. I have had regular conversations with Duf Sundheim and he has never raised that issue. Duf Sundheim, of course, is the state party chairman.

WOODRUFF: How do you argue, though, with the math -- and this is what Schwarzenegger himself was referring to yesterday -- that Republicans have a much better shot, in fact, their only real shot at unseating Gray Davis, if they have one person in the race?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, I think that's a good point. And that's why I'm prepared, at the appropriate time, to accept Arnold Schwarzenegger's endorsement.

WOODRUFF: Seriously speaking, do you think Republicans have a real...

MCCLINTOCK: I am serious.

WOODRUFF: You don't think there's a chance he would do that. So, my question...

MCCLINTOCK: But, Judy, to answer you seriously, I've gone, in the last three weeks, from an asterisk in the polls to double-digits.

Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger, with unprecedented media coverage, has been absolutely dead in the water. He is consistently polled in the low to mid 20s. So the momentum is clearly on my side. We have still got 42 days, six full weeks, until the election. And the momentum is all in my direction right now.

WOODRUFF: But, right now, you also know that he has got the name identification. And when it comes to his position on the issues, he's the one who is saying he doesn't intend to raise taxes. He wants to cut state spending. Why isn't that the right approach?

MCCLINTOCK: Judy, first of all, he has pointedly refused to take a no-tax pledge every time he has been asked to do so.

He has assembled around himself the team that produced the biggest tax increase in this state's history back in 1991 that broke the back of our economy. His chief fiscal adviser is Warren Buffett, perhaps the most outspoken advocate of higher taxes in the country. And every time he's been asked to take a no-tax pledge, he has refused to do so. That leaves me very disturbed about what he has in mind. The fact of the matter is, he has taken very few positions on any issues. And most of those positions are identical to Gray Davis.

WOODRUFF: He also says, Arnold Schwarzenegger says, he's the candidate, he's the only candidate representing all the people. He says he's not beholden to any special interests.

MCCLINTOCK: Well, look at the spate of special interest money that he is now reporting to the secretary of state's office.

WOODRUFF: What do you mean?

MCCLINTOCK: Well, I mean, he pledged that he would not be raising money from special interests. And now he's getting money from every special interest in the state, including some of the biggest land developers in California.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you, finally, very quickly...

MCCLINTOCK: So he has broken that pledge.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you quickly about your own plan. You say you would repeal the California state car tax. If you did, that is another $12 billion added to the state deficit. How would you make it up?

MCCLINTOCK: Actually, that is $4 billion. When we repeal the entire car tax, as I have advocated doing, it will be about $6 billion.

That's about the amount that can be saved simply by streamlining the current bureaucratic structure of the state, according to the Reason Foundation's recent survey of the state's finances. Giving the state the same freedom that every family and business has to shop around for the best service at the lowest price saves about another $9 billion and actually improves the quality of services being delivered to the people of California. There's plenty of ways to reduce a budget in a state that spends as much as California and delivers as little.

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