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by Don Thompson in Sacramento Tuesday, Oct. 07, 2003 at 2:51 PM

A poll of 1000 registered voters, conducted by Elway-McGuire Research for Knight Ridder from Wednesday through Saturday, found the percentage of people saying they would definitely vote to oust Governor Gray Davis dropped from 52 per cent on Wednesday to 44 per cent on Saturday.

Poll dents Schwarzenegger

By Don Thompson in Sacramento

October 7, 2003

ARNOLD Schwarzenegger struggled to put sexual harassment allegations behind him today as a new poll released a day before California's recall election indicated some voters were having second thoughts about removing the state's governor from office.

"The campaign is not losing momentum," Schwarzenegger spokesman Karen Hanretty said on the CBS network. A four-day bus tour of the state that Schwarzenegger concluded in Sacramento yesterday had drawn thousands of enthusiastic supporters.

A poll of 1000 registered voters, conducted by Elway-McGuire Research for Knight Ridder from Wednesday through Saturday, found the percentage of people saying they would definitely vote to oust Governor Gray Davis dropped from 52 per cent on Wednesday to 44 per cent on Saturday.

The poll, which had an overall margin of error of 3 percentage points, also showed Schwarzenegger's lead over Lieutenant-Governor Cruz Bustamante to replace Davis narrowing slightly from an earlier survey.

In tomorrow's election, a two-part ballot will ask Californians whether Davis should be recalled. It will then ask them to chose from among 135 candidates vying to replace him.

The shift in support for the recall followed allegations from 15 women that Schwarzenegger had groped and verbally harassed them during encounters dating to the early 1970s and as recently as 2000.

Schwarzenegger, who had acknowledged and apologised for having "behaved badly" toward women in the past, blamed the allegations on last-minute dirty campaign tricks and said some of them were flatly untrue. He had not discussed most of the allegations specifically and said he would not until after the campaign.

"I can get into all of the specifics and find out what is really going on. But right now, I'm just really occupied with the campaign," he told the NBC television network yesterday.

He told the ABC network yesterday he couldn't remember many details connected to allegations going back more than 15 years but said they could have been true.

"It doesn't make any sense to go through details here with you. What is important is that I cannot remember what was happening 20 years ago, 15 years ago. But some of the things sound like me, which I was the first one to come out and say, you know, some of the things could have happened, I want to apologise to the people if I have offended anyone because that was not my intention," he said.

"No one ever came to me in my life and said to me that I did anything, that said 'I don't want you to do that. You went over the line, Arnold."'

Hanretty didn't answer directly when asked if any of the women had lied. Instead, she accused the Los Angeles Times, which first broke the story of the allegations, of not investigating their claims thoroughly.

"Excuse me, but the LA Times failed to investigate a lot of these women," she said, adding that at least one of the women had contributed to independent candidate Arianna Huffington's campaign.

As the campaign entered its final full day, Davis was demanding Schwarzenegger give a full explanation of the allegations before the vote, and attorney-general Bill Lockyer, a Democrat, said the Republican actor should volunteer for a state investigation whether or not he is elected governor.

Lockyer noted the one-year statute of limitations for sexual battery had expired on all the complaints. Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman accused Lockyer of engaging in "puke politics".

The actor's leading Republican opponent, state Senator Tom McClintock, called the allegations "very, very serious", but said they need to be treated "with a certain degree of skepticism because it's been brought up so late".

Schwarzenegger did not address the allegations during a march to the state Capitol yesterday, but instead stuck to his campaign theme that Davis has failed the people of California.

Playing off of his Terminator movie persona, the actor told about 5000 supporters the governor "has terminated opportunities and now it's time to terminate him".

After the NBC segment aired, two of the women who claim Schwarzenegger harassed them said they were upset the actor said some of the accounts were fictional.

"That incensed me," said Colette Brooks, who claims Schwarzenegger grabbed her buttocks when she was a 23-year-old intern at CNN in the early 1980s. "He's dodging any sort of culpability. He's dodging these allegations."

The Knight Ridder poll showed Schwarzenegger leading Bustamante by 36 per cent to 29 per cent. An earlier poll by the Field Research Corp put his lead at 36 per cent to 26 per cent.

Although those definitely planning to vote to oust Davis had slipped to 44 per cent, among overall voters surveyed the margin supporting the recall was still 54 per cent.

Pollsters surveyed 1000 registered voters, including 284 people on Wednesday and 200 on Saturday. The margin of error for individual days was not given.,4057,7485876%255E1702,00.html

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