LOS ANGELES – Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) isn't the "Terminator" for nothing.
Less than 24 hours after Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy for the governor of California in an October recall election, the sponsor of the petition to oust current Gov. Gray Davis bailed from the race.
Republican U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (search), who paid $1.7 million to fund the signature drive to trigger the recall election, dropped out Thursday afternoon.
Schwarzenegger, who headed to the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office Thursday to get the papers to begin officially his campaign for governor of California, has generated considerable political machinations with his announcement on Wednesday that he would put his name on the Oct. 7 ballot.
The Austrian-born actor announced his plan Wednesday during a taping of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
"The politicians are fiddling, fumbling and failing ... The man that is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis. He is failing them terribly, and this is why he needs to be recalled and this is why I am going to run for governor," he said.
After Schwarzenegger's announcement, Issa gave no indication of his reservations of competing against Schwarzenegger, saying he was pleased the running man had entered the race.
“Despite the late date, I am pleased to have Arnold in the campaign to help me recall Gray Davis. Whether or not he should be governor is not my decision but the voters,'" Issa said in a statement.
But outside the Registrar of Voter's office in San Diego on Thursday, Issa broke into tears as he announced he will retain his seat in Congress rather than seek the governor's post.
"I will continue with my wife's support to fund the effort to recall Governor Davis and when it's over we will return to Congress to support President Bush's effort for Middle East peace," he said.
Issa said the recall was never about a mere desire to hold higher office: "It was about higher obligation."
"Gray needed to go, and in 61 days he'll be gone," he said.
Issa declined to endorse anyone. But he said actor Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement that he would run for governor helped assure him there will be enough qualified candidates for the office.
Schwarzenegger's entry into the recall race casts doubt on whether popular former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan (search) will also vie for the title of governor. Riordan, who is a close friend, had previously said he would run if Schwarzenegger did not.
Riordan had been assembling a campaign team on the assumption Schwarzenegger was out; his spokeswoman, Lisa Wolf, said Wednesday that he had no immediate comment.
Former U.S Rep. Michael Huffington (search), who had considered running himself, endorsed Schwarzenegger on Thursday.
"Arnold is a charismatic leader who would be able to work with all segments of the California political spectrum, and our state needs a uniter right now," Huffington said in a statement.
Huffington's ex-wife, political pundit Arianna Huffington (search), has said she will run as an independent. Learning of Schwarzenegger's entry, the Greek-born commentator said that interpreters will be duly employed in the next couple months deciphering the two well-known candidates' native accents.
Schwarzenegger is among hundreds of candidates who have said they will seek the governor's seat.
Former child star Gary Coleman (search), who played Arnold Drummond on the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" from 1978 to 1986, has also placed his name in the ring for the governor's race.
The East Bay Express, an alternative weekly newspaper serving Berkeley, Oakland and the San Francisco Bay area, paid Coleman's $3,500 filing fee, got the signatures necessary to put his name on the ballot and is the main impetus behind his campaign.
State Sen. Tom McClintock filed papers Tuesday. Businessman Bill Simon, who lost to Davis in November, also is expected to run.
Polls have shown Riordan would be a stronger candidate than Schwarzenegger in the recall election. However, Schwarzenegger's name recognition, combined with his personal wealth, are sure to make him a formidable candidate.
"Arnold is a serious candidate and he is the front-runner," political analyst and Fox News contributor Susan Estrich said. "I think [Schwarzenegger's candidacy] is really, really, really bad for Gray Davis."
Apparently, Democrats agree. Lieutenant Gov. Cruz Bustamante announced hours after the Leno show that he would file papers on Thursday.
Insurance commissioner John Garamendi, also a Democrat, was expected to follow suit.
Analysts from both parties believed the governor's chances for survival would have dramatically improved if other Democrats, particularly Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who tops polls as California's most popular politician, stayed off the ballot.
Feinstein announced Wednesday that she would not run for the governor's office.
"After thinking a great deal about this recall, its implications for the future, and its misguided nature, I have decided that I will not place my name on the ballot," Feinstein said in a statement.
"I deeply believe the recall is a terrible mistake and will bring to the depth and breadth of California instability and uncertainty, which will be detrimental to our economic recovery and decision-making," she said.
Davis told San Francisco's radio station KGO-AM that he was pleased with Feinstein's decision, and hoped other Democrats would stay off the ballot.
"To the extent that Democrats get in the race, it makes it look like a normal election, and legitimates what is really an effort by the right wing to steal back an election they couldn't win last November," Davis said.
But party members thought otherwise.
"I want to back the strongest candidate and it's important that we coalesce around one, and now I'm appealing to the leaders, the folks whose pay grade is one or two notches up from mine, to figure out who our strongest candidate is and lead us in coalescing behind that candidate," said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who had supported a Feinstein candidacy.
One possibility was U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who had supported a Feinstein candidacy and said she might run if Feinstein didn't.
"I have a feeling something will be decided tomorrow probably one way or the other," said Sanchez's spokeswoman, Carrie Brooks.
Members of California's congressional delegation discussed the matter in a conference call Wednesday, with the majority leaning toward finding a consensus candidate, said a source familiar with the discussion who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican who is married into the Kennedy dynasty, made several jokes before announcing his intentions, including one in which Leno's production team participated.
"Well, Jay, after thinking for a long time my decision is ... " he began to tell Leno before the TV screen showed a "Please Stand By" sign. When the picture finally returned, he said: "That's why I decided that way."
When the actor finally confirmed he was running, "The Tonight Show" audience in Burbank erupted in whoops and cheers. A camera in the press room showed several reporters cheering as well.
Schwarzenegger's candidacy stirs the specters of past entertainers-turned-politicians — former President Ronald Reagan (search), former Rep. Sonny Bono and former Gov. Jesse Ventura — in what is becoming one of the most fast-paced and idiosyncratic elections in recent memory.
Even so, the announcement was something of a bombshell, as sources close to Schwarzenegger had been telling the media the actor would not throw his hat into the ring. There was also speculation that his wife, journalist Maria Shriver (search), had urged him to stay out of the recall race.
Fox News has learned that the actor had even composed a press release as late as Tuesday announcing he would not run. Schwarzenegger said he made the decision over the last few days and kept it a secret from everyone — even his own advisers said they didn't expect it. Speculation was so intense that his advisers had to twice squash media reports that the actor was not running.
During the "Tonight Show" taping, Schwarzenegger called his decision the toughest he's made since deciding to get a bikini wax in 1978. In a press conference that followed, he said he and his family deliberated over the decision for weeks, and that Shriver ultimately told him "she would support me no matter what my decision is."
Schwarzenegger also blamed California's fiscal woes directly on Davis, saying, "I will go to Sacramento and clean house."
Later, at the conclusion of the press conference, the action hero looked back on reporters and said, "I'll be back."
While Schwarzenegger has considerable star power, a challenge from a viable Democrat adds pressure on him to prove that his limited political experience won't hurt the state.
The actor, who headed President George H.W. Bush's President's Council on Physical Fitness, added that he knows Davis is a fierce campaigner who will try to use Hollywood rumors to damage Schwarzenegger's reputation.
But Schwarzenegger told Leno that he's not afraid of Davis attacking him as "a womanizer" or "a terrible person."
"I know that they're going to throw everything at me," he said.
Davis' campaign committee responded by saying Schwarzenegger was merely the latest in a long list of people who have declared their intent to run, noting that Hustler publisher Larry Flynt is among them.
"The more candidates who join, the greater the likelihood that a small minority of voters will be controlling California's future," read a statement from Californians Against the Costly Recall (search), which was speaking for the governor.
The statement reminded voters of the cost of a special recall election, estimated by the secretary of state's office at $67 million — "money which would be better spent on our schools and our children."
The recall election is yet another setback for Davis, who has seen his popularity plummet as the state grapples with a record $38 billion budget deficit.
It also is the latest force to bedevil Californians, who in recent years have endured an energy crisis, the collapse of the dot-com economy and a federally mandated cutback in one of the state's main water supplies. Residents now face the prospect of higher car taxes and college fees to close the state's budget gap.
Davis is the first California governor to face a recall and would be only the second governor nationwide to be removed from office if the effort succeeds.
California's Supreme Court justices, meanwhile, huddled behind closed doors for hours Wednesday to decide whether to consider several challenges to the recall election, including a petition to bar any replacement candidates from the ballot.
The justices were expected to announce Thursday whether they would hear the petitions, a spokeswoman said.
Fox News' Adam Housley, Jane Roh and The Associated Press contributed to this report.