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Schwarzenegger will not be the only candidate who has the resources, powerful backers and name identification to push out Davis. Or even the only one who speaks with an accent: Huffington, running as an Independent and a populist outsider, has hired advisers who helped wrestler Jesse Ventura win the Minnesota governorship in 1998. Businessman Bill Simon, the Republican nominee defeated by Davis last year, has claim to the conservative base that provides the Republicans with what little life they have in California. Ueberroth, though officially a Republican, will sell himself as a serious candidate with crossover appeal in a state where many voters still remember how he rescued the 1984 Olympics. And on the off chance that the entire exercise hasn't already made voters cynical enough, they can look forward to Democrats on the ballot making the case that Californians should vote no on throwing Davis out but yes on one of them replacing him.
President Bush is doing his best to stay out of the cross fire, and who can blame him? California, with its 55 electoral votes, has foiled him and his Administration's ambitions there before. In 2000 Bush made a dozen campaign swings there, only to get walloped by Al Gore, who hardly ever visited. Political strategist Karl Rove's perceived effort to sway last year's G.O.P. gubernatorial primary for the moderate former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan annoyed conservatives and left relations between the state party and the White House prickly after Simon won. So officials say not to expect much more involvement than Bush's comments last week that Schwarzenegger would make "a good Governor." Besides, given the choice between a wounded Democratic incumbent in the Governor's mansion in 2004 and a Republican who inherits a state hemorrhaging red ink, Bush strategists consider it a pretty close call.
Davis' chances of surviving weren't looking so great even before Schwarzenegger entered the race. With Californians blaming him for the epic budget problems that have brought a tripling of vehicle-license fees, a 30% hike in state college fees and cutbacks in health services, polls in recent weeks had shown that more than 50% of Californians would support his recall. Weeks ago, California's Democratic House members had privately decided among themselves that, as one put it, "Davis was gone, and this was getting dangerous for us." While Davis had been on the phone constantly consulting with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, hoping to keep her in his camp, she had quietly been talking to fellow members of the California House delegation and state officials about finding a backup candidate. Their first choice: Senator Dianne Feinstein, the most popular politician in the state. "If Dianne got in," a Democratic insider said, "he was dead."