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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Art Torres, Duff Sundheim

Aired August 25, 2003 - 20:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Forty-three days and counting until the California recall election. A new poll shows Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante leading Arnold Schwarzenegger 35 to 22 percent. Some strategists think Schwarzenegger's biggest problem may be the other Republicans in the race.
The Golden state's party chairmen join me to talk politics tonight. Republican party chairman Duff Sundheim is in Mountain View. Democratic party chairman Art Torres is in Los Angeles.

Welcome, gentlemen.

DUFF SUNDHEIM, CHAIRMAN, CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Hey Paula. How are you doing?

ZAHN: I'm doing fine. Duff, let me ask you this. In order for Mr. Schwarzenegger to rise to the top, do any of the rest of the Republican candidates need to drop out?

SUNDHEIM: Well, it is not clear yet whether that is necessary. We're in a very fluid situation out here, Paula. And time will tell.

Right now, people really aren't aware of the fact that Cruz Bustamante is proposing the largest tax increase in our history, that our senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, says she will not vote for Cruz Bustamante under any circumstances. As the full story gets out, I think what we will need to do to win will become clear. But I don't think it is clear at this point.

ZAHN: But Duff, let me get back to a narrower question, then, then I asked. You're not suggest then that having all those Republicans on the ballot is helping Mr. Schwarzenegger tonight, are you?

SUNDHEIM: Well, obviously the fewer candidates we have, the greater our chances of winning. All I'm saying is, at this point in the race, I don't think we can determine that we must have one candidate to win. I think there is a possibility if we have two strong Republican candidates on the ballot we still might win. If you look at the aggregate number of Republicans that are supporting Republican candidates, that's much higher than the number of Californians that are supporting the democratic candidate.

ZAHN: OK. Art, if it becomes clear that Gray Davis cannot win, at what point would you ask him to step down to try to assure the possibility that a Democrat might ultimately run the state again? ART TORRES, CHAIRMAN, CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, first of all, the conservative candidate, Tom McClintock, said that Governor Pete Wilson, Arnold's campaign manager, had the highest tax increase in American history. Direct quote "LA Times" today.

ZAHN: All right, Art, but you still didn't answer my question.

TORRES: Well, I'll answer your question, Paula, but the Republicans are scrambling. And, quite frankly, the governor is not going step down because the "LA Times" poll had him at 50 percent, the lowest figure yet recorded of those people in favor of the recall. And you need 50 plus one to recall this governor.

So we're doing quite well right now with this new "LA Times" poll. But it's all going to come down to get out the vote. Who is going to get out their votes. And, I'm telling you, as I said for months now, watch out for McClintock, because a conservative base is going to allow no respectable Republican to vote for Arnold.

ZAHN: All right, but you're still not coming anywhere near my question. If the polls show -- or whatever barometer you have that he cannot win, is there any scenario under which you think Gray Davis would step down to give the lieutenant governor a chance?

TORRES: No. It doesn't make sense to, Paula. He would have to resign July 23rd before the election was certified to make any impact in terms of saving the taxpayer dollars with $66 million that these Republicans are forcing upon us. You can't resign at this point or have any impact on the election.

ZAHN: Duff, back to you now. Let's talk about the some 40 candidates running. You say that it is too early to tell whether any of them need to drop out to help a clear leader rise to the top here. But with that many candidates, do you really have control of your party?

SUNDHEIM: Well, this is a decision that the candidates are going to have to make for themselves. So far, Paula, we have had two Republican candidates who have looked at the situation and have decided that they want to put their personal interests below what is in the best interests of the state of California. And Darrell Issa, a congressman, and Bill Simon dropped out of the race for the good of California.

ZAHN: Art Torres, you get the last word tonight.

TORRES: I don't think it was for the good of California. Darrell Issa probably had more baggage he could deal with. And who knows if the Bush administration is going to appeal that $92 million lawsuit that Bill Simon won and now is on appeal. He wants those tens of millions of dollars.

ZAHN: Well, Art Torres and Duff Sundheim, you are certainly going to have our eyes peeled to the race. Thank you both for joining us tonight.

SUNDHEIM: Thank you, Paula.

TORRES: Thank you, Paula. Take care.

ZAHN: Thank you. Appreciate it.

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