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Poll: Davis in peril, Schwarzenegger shows strength

Davis replacement for 40 percent asked is Schwarzenegger

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) --Voters in the California recall election might be poised to kick Gov. Gray Davis out and vote Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Sunday.

When asked how they would vote on recalling Davis, 63 percent of probable voters surveyed said they would vote yes, compared with 35 percent who said they would vote no.

In a separate vote to choose a replacement for Davis, Schwarzenegger was the choice of 40 percent of respondents.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was the choice for 25 percent of voters polled, Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock received 18 percent.

The poll showed Green Party candidate Peter Camejo with 5 percent and syndicated columnist and independent candidate Arianna Huffington with 2 percent of the respondents' support.

The poll of 787 registered voters has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points. It was conducted over three days from Thursday through Saturday, following Wednesday night's debate among the five leading replacement candidates. (Full story)

The poll used a model for probable voters that assumes about half the state's voting age population will vote on Election Day.

If the poll is an indication of what will happen in the October 7 election, Schwarzenegger could win even if his remaining major Republican rival, McClintock, stays in the race.

GOP leaders have been pressuring the senator to drop out to improve Schwarzenegger's chances of beating Bustamante, the only major Democrat in the field.

Sunday's results are the first CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll numbers in the California recall campaign.

Earlier polls conducted by other organizations have shown a much closer race between Schwarzenegger and Bustamante and less support for the recall.

Schwarzenegger and Davis have been invited to debate on CNN's "Larry King Live." Davis, a Democrat who formally challenged the Republican actor-turned-politician to a debate Friday, accepted. The Schwarzenegger campaign declined. (Full story)

Davis and Schwarzenegger are not running against each other. Voters will first be asked whether Davis should be recalled. They will then pick a replacement from a list of 135 candidates, including Schwarzenegger, who would take over if Davis were removed from office.

The recall was triggered by voter anger over the state's economic and energy situation.

A recent budget agreement between Democratic and Republican legislators in Sacramento eliminated the state's $38 billion deficit through cuts and borrowing, but it created an expected shortfall of at least $8 billion for the next fiscal year.

A former candidate in the race, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, financed much of a successful petition campaign to allow the recall election.

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