California Teachers Assn.'s President Barbara E. Kerr made a similar argument after the union voted in Sacramento to oppose the recall but back Bustamante. "We really believe the recall is a bad idea," she said. "But it's important the successor -- if there is a successor -- know about public education. And we can't leave that to chance."
The union, which had a public falling out with Davis during his first term, endorsed him in the 2002 gubernatorial campaign but contributed only $62,000 to his reelection effort -- all but $10,000 of it early in his term. In 1998, the CTA spent $1.2 million to help elect Davis.
For the recall, Kerr said the group's board has approved several hundred thousand dollars for outreach to union members, which will include a registration drive, vote-by-mail campaign and get-out-the-vote effort.
There were other signs Thursday of momentum shifting toward Bustamante. Democrats in the Legislature are preparing to endorse the "No on the Recall, Yes on Bustamante" campaign next week, a legislator said. "People, though still opposed to the recall, are more convinced we need a backup plan, a just-in-case plan," the legislator said.
And Bustamante picked up the endorsement of Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, his former Sacramento roommate and successor as Assembly speaker.
"The risk is clearly that the state could end up with a candidate with absolutely no experience in governance," said Villaraigosa, who has also been a close political ally of Davis. "There's too much at stake to allow that to happen."
The councilman stopped short of urging the governor to back Bustamante -- for the time being. "I think right now and for the foreseeable future, the governor's energies will be focused on opposition to the recall," Villaraigosa said. "But if the polling continues to move in a negative direction, that could change."
Yet publicly, there was no indication from Davis if -- or when -- he might urge a vote for Bustamante. The conflicting advice the governor was receiving from his closest aides was notable, given the years of harmony within his inner circle.
One advisor said Davis "in one fell swoop can end all the stories about Democrats divided" by embracing Bustamante even as he fights the recall. But another senior aide said that approach was "like the tobacco companies saying to teenage kids: You shouldn't smoke, but if you do, please smoke our brand."
As that dispute roiled Davis' camp, the actual campaigning for governor continued at a breakneck pace.
Davis was joined by Feinstein at Los Angeles police headquarters, where they called for reauthorization of the federal ban on assault-type weapons.
But the subject quickly turned to the recall when a reporter asked Feinstein whether Schwarzenegger had glorified assault weapons by featuring them in his action movies.
"Absolutely," she replied.
"I'm one who believes that there is too much violence in movies, and that violence begets violence," Feinstein said. "You become a role model for someone of lesser maturity out on the street to try to imitate what you do in a movie. So I don't consider those kinds of things terribly healthy for a society."
Davis, for his part, said he hadn't seen "those movies." But he was clearly versed in the budget plan presented by another GOP opponent, businessman Peter V. Ueberroth.
Davis expressed skepticism about Ueberroth's proposal for a 5% across-the-board spending cut and a sell-off of state properties, as well as a tax amnesty proposal that Ueberroth said could bring in $6 billion -- a figure disputed by analysts. "The devil is always in the details," Davis said.
Meantime, Simon campaigned in Fresno, appearing before a scant audience as he signed a pledge that as governor he would never raise taxes or fees. He denied that he would drop out of the race in favor of Schwarzenegger or any other Republican.
McClintock also reiterated his intention to keep running and took a jab at Schwarzenegger's economic plan.
Schwarzenegger press aide Sean Walsh said about film violence: "We need parental supervision on our children, but adults are mature enough to make up their own minds about movie content." As for the economic proposal he said, "Arnold is very clear on his tax position. He has a vision for the state."
Times staff writers Ronald Brownstein, Anna Gorman, Daryl Kelley, Patrick McGreevy and David Rosenzweig contributed to this report.