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Senator lashes out at GOP rival, but radio callers fear he may split vote.

August 29, 2003|Daryl Kelley | Times Staff Writer

In a low-budget campaign that depends on free media exposure, Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock grabbed a three-hour block Thursday, hosting a conservative radio talk show in San Diego. He used the time to criticize GOP rival Arnold Schwarzenegger for refusing to answer questions from listeners.

McClintock, who filled in on Roger Hedgecock's KOGO-AM (600) drive-time program, used the forum to spotlight differences with Schwarzenegger and to insist again that he would not drop out to help the Republican front-runner defeat Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante in the Oct. 7 recall election.

McClintock clearly articulated his plans to pull California out of a budget shortfall.

But numerous callers bluntly told the candidate they feared he could become "the Ross Perot of California" by splitting the Republican vote and handing Bustamante a victory, as Perot did for Democrat Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential race.

"I feel you've lost the purpose of this recall, which is to recall Gov. Davis and put a Republican into office," caller Janet said, sounding angry. McClintock, a staunch conservative, said such comments were unfair. He argued that he, not Schwarzenegger, a moderate on social issues, has been rising in the polls. He asked listeners to stick with him.

McClintock criticized Schwarzenegger for "hiding" from voters -- for appearing on conservative talk shows for only 15 minutes at a time and refusing to answer callers' questions.

"The movement is mine," said McClintock, whose support has doubled to 12% of likely voters since early July, according to a recent Los Angeles Times poll. Schwarzenegger was holding at 23% of voters from month to month.

"What I would ask everyone to do is watch this campaign and make that decision when we're a lot closer to the election," McClintock said.

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