LOS ANGELES – Former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth (search), a Republican who had sought to replace Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search) in California's Oct. 7 recall election, dropped out of the race on Tuesday, saying he will continue to work on expanding jobs in the state.
"But not as a candidate for governor," he said during a press conference at his Costa Mesa campaign headquarters. "I am going to offer my services to the next governor of California."
The businessman estimated to be worth more than $50 million said he just didn't have enough time to make his case to the people of California why he should be governor.
"In the four weeks where we are and where we have to get, we just can't get there," he said.
Ueberroth recently apologized for a flat performance in the first statewide debate last Wednesday. He pledged to do better in the future but now is expected to return to private life.
His decision comes one day after he began running TV spots for his campaign. Aides had said previously that the ad campaign was proof Ueberroth was in the race to stay.
Ueberroth's announcement also follows the release of the latest Field Poll (search), which showed him polling at 5 percent. In statewide polls, Ueberroth has never earned more than single-digit support.
State Sen. Tom McClintock (search), also a Republican, registered at 13 percent.
However, a California Chamber of Commerce poll released Tuesday shows Schwarzenegger beating Bustamante in a head-to-head contest 49-42. It also shows Bustamante leading McClintock 47 percent to 41 percent and Bustamante tied with Ueberroth at 43 percent. In a four-person race, the poll showed Bustamante leading Schwarzenegger 33 percent to 28 percent with McClintock at 12 percent, and Ueberroth at 10 percent.
The timing of Ueberroth's withdrawal is crucial to Schwarzenegger's effort to push for a strong absentee ballot turnout. Californians begin receiving absentee ballots in the mail Tuesday and Schwarzenegger aides have long hoped that Ueberroth would drop out of the race before absentee voting began so the campaign would not lose any votes to a Ueberroth campaign that had almost no chance of succeeding.
The move is also significant in the run-up to the state GOP convention this weekend. McClintock now remains the only mainstream GOP challenger to Schwarzenegger. Much of the discussion among party activists this week is expected to focus on ways to unify the party behind Schwarzenegger.
Ueberroth said that other than the first day he entered the race when Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., called him to emphasize the need for unity in the party, he has not had anyone encourage him to get out of the race.
"It just hasn't happened," he said. "I have not had a single call."
Dreier is an adviser to Schwarzenegger.
Following his withdrawal, Ueberroth planned to meet with Schwarzenegger and McClintock to discuss their plans to create jobs in California. He said depending on their answers, that's who he will support.
"Then I will endorse a candidate, after we have had that discussion and only at that time," he said.
Ueberroth joins Bill Simon as GOP candidates who have bowed out of the race, but declined to endorse Schwarzenegger.
After the news broke that Ueberroth was quitting the race, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger's campaign said the actor holds his former rival in the "highest regard" and expects Ueberroth's supporters to join Schwarzenegger.
"The Ueberroth supporters are people who did not want to see more politics-as-usual," said spokesman Todd Harris. "The people who were drawn to his campaign are now likely to look to another outsider like Arnold. Arnold holds Ueberroth in the highest regard and his contribution will be missed. We are eager to meet with Ueberroth to discuss how to create jobs in California."
In what appeared to be a stab at Schwarzenegger, McClintock also responded to the news, saying he was sorry to hear Ueberroth was leaving the race.
"Those who supported Peter Ueberroth are serious voters who supported a serious candidate — and I would welcome their support in the days ahead," he added.
McClintock spokeswoman Jennifer Cressy told Fox News that McClintock won't bail out of the race, and wants to engage Schwarzenegger in some type of debate at the party's state convention this weekend. If that doesn't occur, the two are due to meet in a televised public debate on Sept. 24.
"As far as calls on us to get out of the race that's something we won't even consider until we have a debate with Arnold Schwarzenegger," Cressy said. "We'd like to hear him lay out his ideas."
She denied that McClintock was opening a door to withdrawing after the debates if it was clear Schwarzenegger shared many of his ideas about taxes and spending. The two candidates are already far apart on social issues.
Grover Norquist, president of American's for Tax Reform (search), the nation's pre-eminent lobbying group on behalf of the "no new taxes pledge," has withheld endorsing Schwarzenegger, as have other national anti-tax groups, who say they are unconvinced that Schwarzenegger is adamantly opposed to raising taxes to cope with California's budget deficit, already projected for next year at $8 billion.
"The truth is politicians who take the pledge don't raise taxes and politicians who don't do raise taxes," Norquist said.