LOS ANGELES – Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock (search) told Fox News on Wednesday that he'll never drop out of the race and said that GOP front-runner Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) lacks original ideas, is afraid to debate and has stalled in the polls.
"I'm in this race to the finish line," McClintock told Fox News in an interview taped with the senator in Sacramento. "In all the polling that's been done on this race all the momentum is on my side. What Arnold brought to the race is what Arnold has and he really hasn't moved much. I've gone from an asterisk to double digits and if the momentum in the first half of the campaign carries into the second half, I'm going to be in very good shape on election night."
Schwarzenegger continues to poll in the mid-20s and he continues to trail Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante by a slight margin. In the latest Field Poll, Schwarzenegger ran ahead of McClintock 25 percent to 13 percent. Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth followed with 5 percent. Ueberroth dropped out on Tuesday but it was unclear where his support would go.
Schwarzenegger said again Wednesday that "mathematically" it would be better for his campaign if McClintock withdrew but said he would apply no pressure.
Party leaders throughout the state remain hopeful that Schwarzenegger and McClintock can reach a pact where the senator withdraws and endorses the film-star-turned-politician. Interestingly, none of the top three Republicans who have withdrawn from the race -- Rep. Darrell Issa, 2002 gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon and Ueberroth -- have endorsed Schwarzenegger or McClintock.
McClintock told Fox News he disagrees with Schwarzenegger on a range of social issues and remains deeply suspicious about his commitment to fiscal reforms and holding the lid on taxes.
"I don't believe there is a possibility of a meeting of the minds between me and Arnold Schwarzenegger," McClintock said. "He's refused repeatedly to take a 'no new tax' pledge. I think I speak for an awful lot of folks who don't trust his fiscal policies and don't like his social policies."
Some GOP strategists have privately suggested a Schwarzenegger-McClintock merger built around a "no new taxes" pledge, a push for a constitutional amendment to cap spending and placing McClintock in charge of a commission to root out waste and fraud in the state budget.
But McClintock told Fox News he doesn't need Schwarzenegger to pursue these changes and said Schwarzenegger's most popular budget ideas where his in the first place. McClintock said he long ago sought a top-to-bottom audit of the state budget and pushed in the Legislature for a commission to cut wasteful spending. Schwarzenegger has endorsed both ideas but unlike McClintock has declined to take a "no new taxes" pledge.
"They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I am sincerely flattered but at some point I'd like to see him come up with an idea of his own," McClintock told Fox News.
McClintock repeated a challenge Schwarzenegger has already rejected to debate each other at the state party's convention this weekend in Los Angeles.
"He's been asking me to get out, shouldn't he at least engage me in that forum so we can discuss the issues that are brought to the people of California?" McClintock said. "The fact that he's unwilling to do so tells me he doesn't believe he's ready for this office."
Schwarzenegger's campaign says it's accepted an invitation to a multi-candidate debate on Sept. 24 and cannot possibly accept every offer to debate. Schwarzenegger will deliver a luncheon speech Saturday at the party convention. McClintock will give a dinner speech that night where party activists will rally against the scheduled tripling of the car tax.