LOS ANGELES – If Democratic Gov. Gray Davis is recalled then union members should support Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO agreed Tuesday.
The decision is a step away from the union's previous calls for Democrats to stay off the Oct. 7 ballot and continue to support Davis, to whom the 2.1 million-member labor group has been close, going so far as to co-sponsor his inaugural festivities last year.
"We are going to beat the recall," Ray Trujillo, Northern California regional director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, said after the union's convention in Manhattan Beach let out.
The state AFL-CIO, consisting of 1,300 local unions in manufacturing, construction and other industries, now has joined the state teacher's union and other labor groups in backing the politically-confusing message being touted by many Democrats, including the state's Democratic delegation to the U.S. House.
Bustamante has urged voters to oppose Davis' recall, which voters will decide on the first part of a two-part ballot, but also to vote for Bustamante to replace him on the second half of the ballot.
He is the only major Democratic candidate among the 135 individuals vying to replace Davis.
Davis supporters put a brave face on the apparent no-confidence vote, arguing that endorsements for Bustamante will draw more voters opposed to the recall.
While the labor representatives met, GOP frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to shore up his conservative base by selling himself on the medium that helped launch the recall in the first place — talk radio.
Schwarzenegger appeared on KTKZ-AM in Sacramento on Tuesday to argue that he is the candidate conservative voters should choose.
"Let's make this clear: I'm a Republican, I'm a proud Republican from the first day I came to this country and I was so excited about getting away from socialism," he told host Eric Hogue.
"I'm a Republican and I'm running as a Republican to be the next Republican governor."
The actor, who is seeking support from Republicans whose votes could be splintered among three major GOP candidates, launched the radio effort Monday and went on the offensive against Bustamante for the first time.
"It's like one newspaper pointed out, Bustamante is Gray Davis with a receding hairline and a mustache. It's the same person. Same philosophy," Schwarzenegger said Monday on "The Roger Hedgecock Show" in San Diego.
Schwarzenegger's appearances on that show and the syndicated "Hugh Hewitt Show" came as a Los Angeles Times poll showed him trailing Bustamante 35 percent to 22 percent with the Oct. 7 recall election just six weeks away. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Schwarzenegger, a fiscal conservative but social moderate, is leading two other prominent Republicans, state Sen. Tom McClintock (search), a conservative, and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth (search).
On Tuesday, McClintock, a 20-year politician and favorite on talk radio shows, unveiled a television ad campaign Tuesday. The ads will run in smaller cities so most Californians won't see them, but they may hear radio commercials running statewide that carry the same script.
McClintock is something of a folk hero among talk radio fans, fanning the flames of the recall, condemning all tax increases and demanding deep spending cuts. He opposes abortion rights and gun control, both of which Schwarzenegger supports.
"California used to be the Golden State, where taxes were low and jobs were plentiful. Tom McClintock remembers. I was in that state. This can be the moment when we roll back the taxes, the regulations," the ad says.
GOP leaders have warned that Republicans must unite behind one candidate or risk losing the race to replace Davis. McClintock and Ueberroth have both said they have no intention of leaving the race.
The recall is a primary and general election all at once, and Schwarzenegger, experts say, must move nimbly across the political spectrum to assemble a coalition broad enough to defeat a lone Democrat expected to capture 40 percent of the vote.
"He has to be careful and not go to far to the right so that he can't credibly move back to the center and win the independent vote and moderate Democrat vote needed to defeat the Democrat candidate," Republican strategist Alan Hoffenblum told Fox News.
Schwarzenegger hasn't called for fellow Republicans to clear the field for him, but he told Hedgecock: "I think mathematically speaking it will be much better if they drop out, that's clear."
Fox News' Major Garrett and the Associated Press contributed to this report.