California Election Grows Even Nastier

10/06/2003 at 10:41 AM EDT

As California voters prepare to go to the polls Tuesday, the battle between Democratic incumbent Gray Davis and Republican challenger Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting nastier.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that four more women have come forward with stories of the "Terminator" star grabbing their breasts or buttocks in alleged incidents between 1979 and 2000. That brings to 15 the total number of women who have raised such complaints against the recall frontrunner.

In an interview with ABC that taped Saturday and aired Sunday, Schwarzenegger called those allegations "campaign trickery."

As quoted in Monday's Washington Post, Davis, 60, is demanding that his opponent address in detail the sexual misconduct allegations that continue to mount against him, while Schwarzenegger, 56, is energetically telling voters to reject the "sleaze campaign" that he is blaming on "well-organized" political opponents. (Davis denies he is behind the reports exposing Schwarzenegger's alleged conduct with women.)

On Monday's "Today" show, Davis went so far as to suggest the claims against Schwarzenegger could warrant a criminal investigation.

Not that these charges -- or even just-discovered 1975 interview transcripts quoting Schwarzenegger as saying he admired Hitler, which Arnold vehemently denied last week -- seem to be having much effect on the recall election. A weekend NBC News poll showed Schwarzenegger with 36 percent of the vote, putting him nine points ahead of his closest rival, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.

"The allegations don't seem to be sticking," NBC pollster Stuart Elway is quoted as saying in New York's Daily News. "And he's leading among women voters."

Still, NBC discovered, 54 percent of the voters remain undecided even at this late date whether to oust Davis, while those who do want him out of office now only account for 44 percent of the voters. Earlier, that figure was 52 percent.

Said Elway: "A significant segment of the electorate is taking a second look at the recall question."

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