Internal Republican and Democratic polls show Gov. Gray Davis has lost momentum in his fight to beat the recall and suggest Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) might be pulling away from Democrat Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante (search ) and Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock, sources told Fox News.
No public polling has been released this week and all the top campaigns are awaiting the next round of polls from the Field Group and the Los Angeles Times to set the tone for the final week of California's historic recall election.
Republicans and Democrats have conducted nightly "tracking" polls for weeks and those numbers have often closely tracked with the sporadic release of public polls.
According to sources in both parties, Davis trails on the recall question by as many as 14 points.
Democratic polls show Davis trailing 54 percent to 40 percent on the recall, sources said. Republican polls show a virtually identical spread, GOP sources said.
"Gray has slipped back," a top Democratic strategist who is not affiliated with Davis's campaign told Fox News. "And they're panicking. This is not where they wanted to be. They hoped Arnold would implode. He hasn't."
Davis challenged Schwarzenegger to a one-on-one debate, a move Democratic and Republican strategists said indicated Davis feels he must engage Schwarzenegger to blunt his momentum and recreate momentum for himself.
"We don't have a $38 billion problem," Davis said Friday, referring to last year's budget deficit. "One of the many facts I'm going to get Mr. Schwarzenegger to acknowledge in a debate. Arnold Schwarzenegger says we have lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. What he doesn't tell you is that we are 900,000 jobs better off than when I took office. It's not fair to exaggerate our problems just for one man's political advantage."
Schwarzenegger's camp dismissed Davis's request.
"I think Gray really realizes the end of the road is near," Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh told Fox News. "In ten short days he's going to cease to exist as a California elected official. He sees all the attention around the Schwarzenegger campaign and he sees it as a last-gasp attempt to try to right the ship. The truth of the matter is this is not going to work for him. One debate and making a little bit of noise ten days before the election is not going to save this man."
On the replacement ballot, internal Democratic and GOP polls show Schwarzengger with his first lead over Bustamante that's larger or equal to the polls' margin of error. Both GOP and Democratic polls also show no movement in the past week for McClintock.
Democratic polls, sources say, show Schwarzenegger with 31 percent to 26 percent for Bustamante and 15 percent for McClintock. Republican polls show Schwarzenegger with 33 percent to 27 percent for Bustamante and 15 percent for McClintock. The margin of error in both polls is 5 percent.
All campaigns expect publicly released polls early next week to cast a long shadow over the campaign. Schwarzenegger aides hope a lead over Bustamante will brand him the all-out front-runner and raise doubts about Bustamante's electability. Schwarzenegger aides also hope the polls show no movement for McClintock so he might reconsider dropping out.
McClintock has said for two weeks now he's not going to withdraw from the race because he has momentum in the polls. While the state senator has risen from obscurity to the mid to high-teens, polling data showing he's stalled may change his calculations. At least that's the hope among Schwarzenegger aides and senior GOP leaders.
Rep. Darrell Issa (search ), the millionaire congressman who bankrolled much of the recall effort, endorsed Schwarzenegger Friday and appealed for party unity.
Schwarzenegger thanked Issa for his endorsement and in doing so sent a frosty signal to McClintock.
"He wants the Republican Party to unite and be behind one candidate because he knows what's is important," Schwarzenegger said to Issa. "What is important is not to think about ourselves, but to think about the party, to think about the state, to think about the people."
At the same event, said Ron Nearing, president of the state GOP county chairmen, announced that 40 of 59 chairmen had endorsed Schwarzenegger.
"We need a Republican party that is united both in spirit and purpose," Nearing said.
McClintock dismissed the endorsements and instead cited Californians who had signed up as volunteers on his Web site.
"I will trade 40 county chairmen who like to attend cocktail parties for 31,000 Californians who are ready to walk precincts and work their hearts out in the final days of this campaign, any day of the week," McClintock said.
A top GOP strategist, Kevin Spillane (search ), said he was surprised McClintock lashed out at the party's grassroots organizers.
"The county chairmen are not country-clubbers," Spillane said. "I'm surprised Tom would attack them. They are mostly conservative, very close to the conservative activists in the state. And I know Tom would like their support."