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Arnold Schwarzenegger Ahead In Latest Poll, Questions About His Legitimacy Still Permeate Media

Aired September 28, 2003 - 18:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: First up, the California recall. Where the candidates are heading for a final sprint. Will a new CNN/USA Today Gallup poll have any impact? It is not good news for Governor Gray Davis. 63 percent of registered voters surveyed said they plan to vote yes for the recall, 40 percent of them say they'll vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger. So let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider to get reaction to this. Does this mean Arnold's going to win?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it certainly means Gray Davis is in trouble and it looks pretty good for Arnold. What was significant in those figures was that only 35 percent of California voters say they're going to vote to keep Gray Davis, 40 percent will vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger on that second ballot.

That means Schwarzenegger is actually getting more votes than Gray Davis. Davis has been saying all along that more people could vote to keep him than to vote -- than would vote for the next governer. But the fact is, right now Schwarzenegger is on a roll and Davis is sinking fast.

LIN: So Bill, what does Davis to do to catch up or win?

SCHNEIDER: I don't think there's anything he can do. He can't win this, but Schwarzenegger can lose this. What Davis is hoping do is to entice Schwarzenegger into a one on one debate between Davis and Schwarzenegger. He's offered -- Davis has indicated he would do this on "LARRY KING LIVE" here on CNN, or any venue available.

He wants the debate face-to-face with Arnold Schwarzenegger every day all the time from one end of the state to the other, in hopes that sooner or later he can trap Mr. Schwarzenegger into saying something foolish or uninformed and win the election because people will say we can't elect Schwarzenegger, he don't doesn't know anything. But Schwarzenegger doesn't appear to be falling for the that trap.

LIN: That's right, he's refusing to debate. Do you that this is then, a race for him that's really here for him to win or loose? I mean he's the one calling the shots at this point?

SCHNEIDER: At this point it looks like it Is schwarzenegger's to win or lose. And he's being very cautious. When Miguel Marquez interviewed him, he indicated he was going to stay on message. He's very careful about that. He's not going to vary from his message. He's not going to allow himself to be entrapped into saying something at an unguarded moment. Look, Arnold Schwarzenegger, there's one important thing we know about him, he is intensely focused and disciplined. That's how he became a body building champion. That focus and discipline could pay off if he continues to stay on message and does doesn't allow Gray Davis to trap him into a misstatement in the next nine days.

LIN: Well, politics certainly can be some heavy lifting. Bill, stay right there. In fact, our Miguel Marquez, as we mentioned, did interview Arnold Schwarzenegger and this is how it went -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this new poll certainly seems to put him in the driver's seat. And like a bodybuilder, like Bill Schneider said, he just seems very intense, very focused on this thing. He is playing the part of a confident frontrunner. Check it out.


MARQUEZ: All right so you heard the numbers, 63 for the recall, 35 percent against the recall at this point looks like he's going. You must be happy to here these numbers?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Yes, you know, but I hear poll numbers all the time and so we are very happy that they're looking good, but I don't take anything for granted. To me this is an important week coming up now, going up and down the state, reaching out to the people and really letting them know what my vision is. Because people basically want leadership and this is a vacuum of leadership in these last few years.

MARQUEZ: Well, if this thing holds, your numbers are at 40 percent. You could be a governor in a week's time. Has that sunk in?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, you know I'm not thinking about this. I'm thinking about reaching out to the people. I'm thinking about just to stay in the message. That's the most important thing. To be upbeat and to let the people always know that we can change. We can bring this back. We can make it the golden state that it once was.

MARQUEZ: What's brought you to this point to 40 percent you think, or your own internal polling is showing similar numbers. What's got this momentum going?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Like I told you, I don't pay that much attention to the numbers. To me the most important thing is to be out there working hard 18 hours a day, studying the issues and being out there and talking to the people, doing as many interviews as possible, and all of those kind of, that's important.

MARQUEZ: Well, there's certainly a reflection of all of that?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, absolutely. I think that more and more people are coming our way. I think that people are looking at this now and saying there's an opportunity that we can bring back the economy, there's a great opportunity here with new leadership to bring back education, and to bring back the state it once was. That's what I always say. When I came here to this state, you know, it was a great state. I think we can bring it back and make it that again.

MARQUEZ: Governor Davis is coming out with a new ad bashing you on not debating him. Why not debate him?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, you know, I think it's to be expected, that when the polls look bad for Davis and good for me that he will just go and start campaigning the traditional way which is negative campaigning and all that stuff. That's the only way he can do it. I will stay in message. I will have a positive campaign and I connect with the people and I will like I said, reach out and really let them know that this is a terrific state, that this is the best place in the world, that we have to make the environment again great in the state and we have to bring the education back, we have to bring back the economy, and we can do it. It needs leadership.

MARQUEZ: A lot's been made out of Tom McClintock being in this race. Does he need to drop out at this point? Do you need his votes?

SCHWZENEGGER: All I can tell you is I respect Tom McClintock. He's a great man, and this is a decision he has to make for himself. I will never make the decision for him. I'm looking forward to working with him in the future.

MARQUEZ: In a week's time you could be governor. Has that sunk in at this point?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't concentrate on that. I'm concentrating on my campaign. It's very important not to kind of get sidetracked with anything with polls or anything like that. It is just important for me to cover as much ground as possible, to talk to as many people as possible, and reach out.

This has been the most fun thing actually do is go to factories, go to companies, to go to little vendors, to go to the farmers and listen to their complaints and listen to the pain they have and how tough it is right now to do business in California. I want to turn this around. This is a terrific place. I think we can bring it back. That's what important thing is.


MARQUEZ: Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly a guy that seems who is on message. Governor Davis trying to get him off that message. Released a new ad called "ducks." The point says the governer is Mr. Schwarzenegger is ducking a debate and the ducking the issues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have questions about Arnold Schwarzenegger? So do a lot of people. He ducks tough questions. Didn't vote in 13 of the last 21 elections and now he refuses to debate the governor he's trying to replace. Vote no on the recall.


MARQUEZ: Now, another interesting thing that happened all the major California papers endorsed no on the recall, basically keeping Governor Davis. That may not help him out though. On that CNN poll, his campaign workers essential say that there are many poll out there. It doesn't really matter. The key in this is the race that's shaping up between the governor and Mr. Schwarzenegger.


LARRY GRISOLANO, DAVIS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: This happens to be a poll, by the way, that had Al Gore losing by double digits in a similar time span before the 2000 election, so there's polls all over. But what I think is most important in terms of where this race is, is that as people focus on the new reality of this two-person race, they're going to see this in a fresh light.


MARQUEZ: And here's something else going on right now. Live in Sacramento, California, Arianna Hoverton speaking before an Asian- Pacific candidate forum. She's at 2 percent in this latest poll. Basically cratering, lost a lot of support there.

Also at this event today is Tom McClintock, who is in third place at 18 percent and Cruz Bustamante who is at 25 percent and second place behind Mr. Schwarzenegger at this point at least by our poll by 15 percent percentage points.

Now, the candidate who seems to have something to cheer about in this poll is Mr. Schwarzenegger. He's jetting around the state today to three different stops this week. He's going to be on the bus hitting community after community and this guy is -- he's focused and he believes and his campaign believes that this guy is in the zone as they're saying and that in a little over a week's time he will be governor of California so they say -- Carol.

LING: We'll see. Thank you very much. Miguel Marquez with that interview with Arnold.

Well, we're going to bring our Bill Schneider back and joining him is going to be California political analyst Jill Stewart. She is a columnist, syndicated columnist who writes for the "San Francisco Chronicle" and the "Los Angeles Daily News." Thank you very much, Jill, for coming in.


LIN: First to you, Jill, what did you think of Arnold's remarks? That certainly seems like he's got his lines down?

STEWART: It's very interestingp. I found at the debate he was able to deal with policy and of course that was the one thing Californians wanted to know. Can this guy, once he's taken away from his lines, handle being attacked by others and deal with wonks (ph), policy wonks. That was the big question.

And I think that's where these numbers are coming from in the polls. Californians had that question answered and they're feeling much more comfortable with him as a candidate. I'm surprised to see Davis attacking him on this debate issue because Gray Davis did a avoid a number of debates that he was invited to and only showed up for that one debate where he had 20 minutes by himself and never faced other candidates.

LIN: Bill, it seems surprising to me though, that Californians are this unhappy with Gray Davis. It almost sounds personal. What is it that Californian voters dislike so much about him?

SCHNEIDER: You just hit the nail on the head, Carol, it is personal or in fact, it's not personal because he has no personal relationship with the voters. Willy Brown, the mayor of San Fransisco told me that over a year ago. He said, the problem with Gray Davis, whom he supports, is that he has never developed a personal relationship.

In California where everything is on television you need that personal relationship that Ronald Reagan had and that Jerry Brown had, with different voters. Gray davis never really had it.

Gray Davis has always survived by being the last man standing. He's always won elections, and he always has, simply because people conclude we don't like him, but we like the other guys less. And look what Davis is doing right now. He's running negative ads against Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's trying to entice Arnold Schwarzenegger to get into a debate, so he can win the same way.

He wants people to say, look we really don't like Gray Davis, we never have, but we can't vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger. And that's the way Davis is hoping to survive this recall.

LIN: So, Jill, do you think that Gray Davis can do anything in the next nine days to make it up to voters?

STEWART: It's going to be very, very difficult because his negatives are so high. 76 percent of Californians think the state's going in the wrong direction. He's incredibly unpopular and now he's going negative, which is what people don't like about him in the first place, but he has no choice because the polls are all going against him.

His people tried to spin that debate last week as Davis won because it was so wild and it was so crazy and everybody was attacking, but Californians loved that debate. In grocery stores and bank lines people enjoyed it. They had fun with it. They heard a lot of ideas. And Gray Davis wasn't there, and he's being forgotten about and it's hurting him. I think he's getting a little bit desperate.

LIN: So, Bill, do you think it really is going to, as the cliche that we tend to use on election day, it's going to get down to voters who's going to turn out. Who is likely to throw turn out.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. And one of the surprises in the polls is this poll calculated a pretty high turnout. A presidential level of turnout, which is what a lot of people are predicting. And it turns out that the higher the turnout the worse Gray Davis does. People in California appear to have made their mind up about him and right now they're moving towards Arnold Schwarzenegger as a suitable replacement.

Another surprise is that, when we asked people in this poll who do you think did the best job in the debate, this is among people who watched the debate, they said Tom McClintock. But then, among people who watched the debate, who are you going to vote for, they said Arnold Schwarzenegger. Those two were the clear winners of the debate. McClintock is not getting the votes because people don't think he can win.

So, McClintock won the debate and Schwarzenegger is getting the benefit.

LIN: Jill?

STEWART: Yes, aagree with that. Again people were reassured Schwarzenegger is good on issues. He knews the issues. Everyone knows by now that McClintock is the expert. He's been in the legislature for something like 20 years. But Schwarzenegger knows enough. He's apprised himself enough of the issues.

He's kept quiet behind closed doors on many occasions over the last six or seven weeks, driven the media crazy by not being available for interviews. What he's been doing is reading position papers, figuring out how he feels on many, many specific issues and people now feeling confident with him. That's how I'm reading the polls.

LIN: And reading those position papers while running on a treadmill he tells us. All right, the two of you, you both right there please. Stand by. We're going to take a quick break and then we're going to talk about national politics. Who's up who's down. Stay right there.


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