SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Marching on the Capitol he hopes to claim in the recall election, Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) said he sensed "an unbelievable momentum" Sunday, despite new allegations of sexual harassment and signs of a tightening race. The embattled incumbent, Gov. Gray Davis (search), signed a law making California the largest state to require employer-paid health care.
A poll released over the weekend found Schwarzenegger's lead among replacement candidates waning with news of harassment claims, but the Republican remained ahead of the pack and voters still favored removing Davis from office in Tuesday's election.
Schwarzenegger did not address the allegations during his march and rally at the Capitol, his only scheduled public appearance Sunday, but said Davis "has terminated opportunities and now it's time to terminate him."
"Please bring me the broom," the Republican told a rally crowd of nearly 5,000. "We are here to clean house."
Schwarzenegger's opponents and supporters alike held signs referring to the harassment allegations, from "No groper for governor" and "Say no to Predators" to "Gray groped government" and "Gray groped our assets."
Four more women surfaced to accuse Schwarzenegger of groping, spanking or touching them inappropriately, bringing the total to 15 since a Los Angeles Times story Thursday detailed six claims of harassment between 1975 and 2000.
The Times reported Sunday on the latest group, which included an unidentified 51-year-old woman who said Schwarzenegger pinned her to him and spanked her repeatedly three years ago at a West Los Angeles post-production studio.
Three other women named by the Times said Schwarzenegger fondled them in separate incidents outside a Venice gym in the mid-1980s, at a bar in the late 1970s and on the set of the movie "Predator" (search) in 1986.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Sean Walsh dismissed as untrue the accounts of three of the women in the Times' Sunday story. He said the actor had no recollection of the alleged gym incident.
In a "Dateline NBC" interview aired Sunday evening, Schwarzenegger said of the allegations, "a lot of it is made-up stories. I've never grabbed anyone and pulled up the shirt and grabbed the breast and stuff like that."
But when asked if he denied all the stories about grabbing, he said, "No, not all. But I'm just saying this is not me. What I am is someone that sometimes makes outrageous jokes, someone that is out and says sometimes crazy things that may be offensive because there is a certain atmosphere."
Schwarzenegger said he wouldn't say anything more about the harassment claims until after the election. "I can get into all of the specifics and find out what is really going on," he said. "But right now I'm just really occupied with the campaign."
Speaking on morning television news shows Sunday, Schwarzenegger repeated that the harassment allegations and reports that he praised Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (search) as a young man were desperate last-minute politically motivated attacks.
"This is campaign trickery and it is dirty campaigning," he said in an interviewed aired on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "Like, for instance, I despise anything and everything that Hitler stands for."
Davis, who has said he had nothing to do with the harassment allegations, said they indicate "serious problems" with Schwarzenegger's behavior and questioned his ability to govern.
"Are all 15 women and their families lying?" the Democrat told reporters during brief remarks made at a Los Angeles ceremony where he signed the employee health care bill into law.
Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer said after a Davis rally in San Jose that Schwarzenegger should volunteer for a state investigation, even though criminal charges could not be pursued because the statute of limitations has expired for all the allegations.
"It's really more a question of character and what the voters think rather than a legal matter," Lockyer said.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman accused Lockyer of engaging in the sort of "puke politics" the attorney general had earlier warned Davis to avoid.
The law Davis signed Sunday will provide health insurance to nearly 1.1 million working Californians who do not currently receive job-based coverage, the governor predicted. Though small businesses are exempted, the measure requires most employers to pay for their employees' health care.
"Today we take a bold step to reform health care," Davis said at a ceremony, attended by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover and labor leaders.
A Knight Ridder poll released late Saturday found support for recalling Davis might be slipping, although 54 percent favored removing him while 41 percent were opposed.
The poll, conducted Wednesday through Saturday, found that the percentage of people saying they would definitely vote to oust Davis dropped in the last days the survey was conducted, from 52 percent Wednesday to 44 percent Saturday. Those saying they either were probably going to vote for the recall or were unsure how to vote increased from 10 percent Wednesday to 24 percent Saturday.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters, conducted by Elway/McGuire Research and posted on the San Jose Mercury News Web site, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. No margin of sampling error was released for the day-to-day numbers.
The poll also indicates the race tightening between Schwarzenegger and Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the leading Democrat among the replacement candidates.
The poll showed Schwarzenegger with 36 percent support, to 29 percent for Bustamante. A poll conducted by the Field Research Corp. between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1 gave Schwarzenegger a 10-point lead over Bustamante.
Such polling results led to a new anti-recall ad in which U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein says, "This recall is turning around." The new ad from Californians Against the Costly Recall is set to begin airing in major markets Monday.
Though she names neither Davis nor Schwarzenegger, the senator cites the recent "serious allegations" against Schwarzenegger while asserting that, "People are beginning to see how unfair it [the recall] is, and how harmful it is to California's economy and to our people."