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Arnie gets hero’s welcome in Surf City

Huntingdon Beach (California), Aug. 23 (Reuters): Arnold Schwarzenegger received a hero’s welcome in this beach town yesterday, thrilling hundreds of swimsuit-clad admirers and winning endorsements for his gubernatorial bid from a Republican congressman and key fundraisers.

Wading into throngs of cheering supporters in southern California’s Huntington Beach — known as Surf City, California — Schwarzenegger behaved like a veteran politician, shaking hands, kissing babies and posing for photographs.

He ducked into two restaurants and a surf shop, saying he had been talking to the owners about “the burden they go through every day running a business in California.”

“Wait until October 7, we’re going to turn this mess around,” the candidate said, referring to the date of the recall election.

A Los Angeles Times poll released yesterday showed voters were nearly evenly split on whether to recall California governor Gray Davis, who is a Democrat. Schwarzenegger is the front-running Republican candidate.

US representative Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative Republican who strolled down Main Street with Schwarzenegger, said he endorsed the actor because Schwarzenegger was the strongest candidate and his beliefs most closely mirrored those of Rohrabacher.

California Republicans, however, have begun to fret that with three other well-known conservatives in the race, the party may be too fragmented to win the governor’s seat and could hand the race to leading Democrat, Cruz Bustamante.

The influential Lincoln Club of Orange County, a Republican fund-raising organisation, called on Republican challengers Bill Simon, Peter Ueberroth and Tom McClintock to drop out.

“Each is a noble and principled man and would distinguish the Republican Party,” said club president Tracy Price.

“However, in our view, they can’t win. They can only spoil our chances of electing a Republican governor and turning the state around.”

Schwarzenegger refused to be drawn into party politics, saying each politician had to make his or her own decision.

“They are all people I respect. They are all Republicans. They work very hard and at one point or another they have to make a decision.

“I can’t make it for them,” he said.

But when pressed, he added: “Obviously, mathematically speaking, it’s wiser to only have one candidate.”

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