A narrow majority of California voters would oust Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search) in a recall election, but most are not inclined to support the Republican alternatives, a poll released Wednesday found.
The nonpartisan Field Research Corp. (search) in San Francisco found that 51 percent of likely voters said they would oust Davis and 43 percent would vote to keep him. Six percent were undecided.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan (search) finished the strongest when poll respondents were asked to choose from six possible Davis opponents. Riordan had 21 percent, followed by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger with 15 percent.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has largely bankrolled the recall effort and is the only declared Republican candidate, was last at 4 percent.
Twenty-four percent of likely voters said they would choose none of the six possible candidates.
Davis has been battered by the state's energy crisis and budget deficit, sending his approval rating to record-low levels. He would become the first governor in California history to face a recall election if the Republican-led recall qualifies for the ballot.
Recall backers say they've turned in 1.6 million signatures, almost twice the number necessary, and are hoping state officials will certify a fall election as early as next week.
Davis supporters were dealt a setback Wednesday when a judge refused to hold an early hearing on their lawsuit alleging signatures on recall petitions were gathered illegally.
Attorneys for Taxpayers Against the Governor's Recall (search), which filed suit Tuesday, had wanted the hearing to take place July 23, before the earliest possible deadline for scheduling a recall vote.
But Superior Court Judge Carl J. West set the hearing for Aug. 8, saying, "I'm not convinced that the sky is falling."
The latest poll confirmed other recent surveys that show Davis is at risk if the recall makes it to the ballot. The findings also suggest that Davis' survival could hinge, among other factors, on the choices on a recall ballot and whether the state's Democratic officeholders stay out of the race, analysts said.
Leading Democrats from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante on down have said they do not intend to run on the two-part recall ballot, which would ask voters whether to oust Davis and who should replace him. The replacement could win without a majority of the votes.
"If there were somebody familiar -- you could point to a Feinstein or maybe a Bustamante -- who people think is competent, would be up to the job and they would be comfortable with them as governor, I think it would have a devastating effect on the governor's recall chances," poll director Mark DiCamillo said. "Conversely the absence of such a candidate would really benefit the governor."
Among the other potential Davis opponents, businessman Bill Simon had 12 percent, the Green Party's Peter Camejo had 8 percent and state Sen. Tom McClintock had 7 percent.
When asked about Issa separately from other candidates, only 22 percent of voters said they were inclined to support him, but his aides said he would quickly improve his showing once he moved into campaign mode.
Schwarzenegger adviser George Gorton said the public's good will toward the actor would translate into political support once residents got to know him as a candidate.
"Arnold needs to show that he's the right guy for the job," Gorton said.
He said Schwarzenegger was promoting Terminator 3 in Europe and will return around July 22. He will announce whether he will run after an election date is set, Gorton said.
Pollsters interviewed 1,040 registered voters, including 719 likely voters, from July 1 through July 13. The margin of sampling error for likely voters was plus or minus 4 percentage points.