According to the Los Angeles Times poll taken last week, 35 percent of likely voters said they would vote for Bustamante, while 22 percent said they would vote for Schwarzenegger.
“We still have a lot of work to do and quite a ways to go,” Bustamante spokeswoman Lynn Montgomery told the Times. “All we’ll continue to do is work hard and make sure that the voters are aware of what our message is. It doesn’t change our message, whether we’re ahead or behind.”
Schwarzenegger had led Bustamante in most previous polls and the actor’s campaign reacted skeptically to the Times survey.
“Clearly, this is a dynamic that has never been seen before,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh told the Times. “In fairness to pollsters, we’ve never seen candidates like this before; we’ve never seen a race like this before. It’s much like the person who goes to a children’s birthday party and has a blindfold put on and is spun around 10 times and asked to pin the tail on the donkey. That’s what the pollsters are doing now.”
Republican businessman Bill Simon, who scored 6 percent in the poll, announced Saturday that he is dropping out of the race. Simon hasn’t endorsed a candidate, but his withdrawal is widely seen as a boon for Schwarzenegger.
“This recall election has been about bringing profound and substantial change to our state, and I strongly believe that the desire of Californians must come before the aspirations of any single candidate,” Simon said in his withdrawal statement. “There are too many Republicans in this race and the people of our state simply cannot risk a continuation of the Gray Davis legacy. For these reasons I think it’s wise to step aside.”
Republicans Tom McClintock, a state senator, and Peter Ueberroth, former commissioner of baseball, remain in the race and are expected to draw some votes away from Schwarzenegger. McClintock and Ueberroth came in third and fourth, respectively, in the Times poll.
When Californians vote on Oct. 7 they will answer two recall questions: Whether Davis should be removed from office and if so, who should replace him.
If a majority of voters answer “yes” on the question of removing Davis then the potential replacement candidate with the most votes will become governor. If a majority votes “no” on the removal from office question, Davis will retain the governorship. Voters who say “no” to the removal question, or who choose not to answer the question at all, may still vote for a replacement candidate.
Bustamante, the state’s highest-ranking Democrat besides the governor, has urged voters to vote “no” on removing Davis from office, but to vote for Bustamante when choosing a possible replacement candidate. The lieutenant governor has said he doesn’t support the recall effort, but wants to ensure the state doesn’t “fall into the hands of the Republicans.”
Davis has not officially endorsed Bustamante but has said that the “no on the recall, yes for Bustamante” strategy makes sense.
“His entry in the race, I think, will actually help me by bringing out more people to vote no on the recall,” Davis told CNN on Sunday. “And clearly he’s the most qualified person.”