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Ironduke
02 Oct 03,, 17:34
Huffington quits California vote

Independent candidate Arianna Huffington, has pulled out of the battle for the California governorship.
Ms Huffington said she would now concentrate her efforts on defeating Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The actor turned politician has sprung into the lead in the latest opinion polls and received crucial backing from Republican Party members.

Experts say it is now a two horse race between Schwarzenegger and incumbent Democrat Governor Gray Davis.

Slanging match

Ms Huffington's campaign to be the next resident of the governor's mansion after the 7 October election failed to ever really gather any steam.

But the political commentator did cause some ripples among the electorate when she participated in a televised candidates' debate with Mr Schwarzenegger.

The 90-minute debate in Sacramento turned into a bad-tempered shouting match, as the pair traded salvoes of personal and political barbs.

The acrimony between the two was evident when she announced her decision on CNN's Larry King Live programme.

"I'm pulling out and I'm going to concentrate every ounce of my time and energy to defeat the recall. I've realised that's the only way now to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger," she said.

Machiavellian forces?

"I believe there is a clear and present danger... that Republican forces are using Arnold Schwarzenegger to get control of the state," Ms Huffington went on to explain.

"He is a charming man, he's a nice man but really he has no idea how to run the state and he is going to be run by the very forces that basically have destroyed so much of California."

Responding to the news of Ms Huffington's withdrawal Mr Schwarzenegger described the decision as "interesting" and said that his rival had "brought a lot of colour and excitement to the whole process".

The change came as Mr Schwarzenegger continued to surge forward in opinion polls. In the latest survey, carried out by the Los Angeles Times, 40% of voters said they would support the action hero on election day.

Ms Huffington in contrast garnered less than 1% of the predicted vote.

Party favourite

On Tuesday Mr Schwarzenegger received a vital boost for his campaign after the Republican party decided to formally endorse his candidacy.

In a unanimous vote the directors of the California Republican party took the unprecedented step of lining up behind one candidate, rather than supporting all Republicans standing in the recall election.

The decision by 17 members of the 21-member panel of governors opens up new funds and resources to Mr Schwarzenegger, leaving the Republican party's second place candidate, State Senator Tom McClintock, out in the cold.

Party members have been fearful that Mr McClintock's presence in the lists will split the Republican vote. The board's chairman, Duf Sundheim, said that while both candidates would make a good governor, only one could win.

"Arnold has a proven ability to connect with voters, to solidify the Republican base while reaching out to Democrats and independents and to excite new voters," Mr Sundheim told said.

"This is an unprecedented vote for our party but this is an unprecedented election."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3154522.stm