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Clinton stumps for Davis

Former president says California recall 'not funny anymore'

Davis and Clinton speak to reporters after appearing together Sunday in Los Angeles.
Davis and Clinton speak to reporters after appearing together Sunday in Los Angeles.

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California Recall
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Tom McClintock

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for California Gov. Gray Davis at a Los Angeles church Sunday, warning that recalling the embattled governor would "create a circumstance where nobody ever makes a hard decision again."

Clinton said he got a chuckle out of early news coverage of the recall, when 135 people signed up as candidates to replace Davis if a majority of Californians vote to remove him.

But "it's not funny anymore," he told parishioners at the First AME Church in South Central Los Angeles.

"I don't want you to become a laughingstock, a carnival or the beginning of a circus in America where we just throw people out whenever they make a tough decision," Clinton said.

He said recalling Davis "would spread instability and uncertainty among your people and across the country."

Cecil Murray, pastor of the church, is a prominent recall opponent. He urged his parishioners to vote to keep Davis in office.

"We are his posse," he told them.

Clinton is the most prominent of several high-profile Democrats who have agreed to campaign for Davis this week, among them former Vice President Al Gore and two presidential candidates, Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Davis, who won a second term in 2002, is battling to keep his job in the October 7 election. The ballot includes two parts. The first asks voters whether they want to recall Davis, and the second asks them to pick a replacement.

The recall was triggered by voter anger over the state's economic and energy woes. A recent budget agreement between Democratic and Republican legislators in Sacramento eliminated the state's $38 billion deficit through cuts and borrowing, but it created an expected shortfall of at least $8 billion for the next fiscal year.

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Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for California Gov. Gray Davis at a church in Los Angeles. CNN's Candy Crowley reports. (September 15)
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A Los Angeles Times poll published Friday found support for the recall at 50 percent, with 47 percent of voters polled saying they would vote to keep Davis in office.

The difference was within the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

The same poll showed Davis' fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, leading the pack of candidates to replace him with 30 percent support.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the leading Republican among recall candidates, was second with 25 percent, followed by GOP state Sen. Tom McClintock with 18 percent.

Schwarzenegger spent Sunday touting his endorsement by the California State Firefighters Association. The association's president, Jeff Sedivec, said Schwarzenegger "will be a strong force [for] each and every one of us" as governor.

"In good times and bad times, he will stand up for us. Now we are proud to stand up for him," Sedivec said.

Schwarzenegger said he learned to appreciate firefighters while playing one in the movie "Collateral Damage," and promised that if elected, "I will be fighting for you in Sacramento."

Schwarzenegger speaks to the state GOP convention Saturday.
Schwarzenegger speaks to the state GOP convention Saturday.

"Let's stop the Davis-Bustamante administration. Let's terminate them. Let's say, 'Hasta la vista, baby,' to those guys," he said, quoting his character in the "Terminator" films.

McClintock -- under pressure from Schwarzenegger's campaign and other Republican figures to drop out to solidify Republican support behind one candidate -- accused Schwarzenegger of losing supporters and ducking debates.

"Their principal argument is, 'Well, McClintock's a better candidate, but he just can't win,'" McClintock told San Francisco's KRON-TV.

"As we begin to demonstrate that we can win, you're going to see an avalanche of Arnold Schwarzenegger's supporters moving into my column very quickly."

Polls suggest that one Republican could beat Bustamante, but separate GOP campaigns would split the vote and result in Bustamante winning a plurality of voters, all that is necessary to take the governor's seat if the recall succeeds.

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