LOS ANGELES – Although Bill Simon's (search) campaign denied pressure from prominent state Republicans played any role in his decision to drop out of the governor's race, the pressure was applied on a daily basis and achieved the desired result.
Rep. David Dreier (search), chairman of California's GOP delegation, told Fox News late Friday that he had been talking to lawmakers and others in California to unify GOP support behind Arnold Schwarzenegger (search).
Dreier said other state Republicans had done the same.
The congressman said he felt GOP front-runner Schwarzenegger's chances of winning would be improved if Simon and state Sen. Tom McClintock (search) did not remain in the race.
Simon had long been thought the least likely of the Republican candidates to stay the course. GOP strategists considered his 2002 campaign for governor one of the worst in state history and several said Simon was having a very hard time raising funds.
Simon aides told Fox News Saturday that GOP pressure "played absolutely no role whatsoever" in his decision. They also noted that in his withdrawal statement Simon did not endorse Schwarzenegger. Aides were vague about whether Simon would endorse Schwarzenegger in the future, speculating that the one thing that might change his mind would be a decision from fellow conservative Republican Tom McClintock, a state senator, to withdraw from the race.
Simon and McClintock hail from the same social-conservative, pro-life wing of the party. Simon's now under pressure to endorse McClintock to unify the social-conservative GOP vote. His decision to remain neutral, therefore, is a small gift to Schwarzenegger.
Simon told Fox News early this week that he was in the race "to stay" and that no amount of pressure would force him to withdraw. He also said he would spend at least $9 million of his own fortune on his own campaign.
But Simon never moved above single digits in the polls and didn't appear to have a chance to expand his support. He never aired a TV commercial, though he did pay for a radio spot that attacked Schwarzenegger's unwillingness to take a no new taxes pledge and implying that Schwarzenegger was a liberal big spender.
Ueberroth Plans to Remain in Race
Meanwhile, Peter Ueberroth's (search) campaign manager Dan Schnur told Fox News that Republican Ueberroth will stay the course despite Simon's withdrawal.
"We're staying in this race," Schnur said. "We had a $1 million week last week. After a week like that, why would we get out?"
Schnur said Ueberroth's campaign raised $1 million in contributions in the week ending Saturday.
Ueberroth, the commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1984-1989, has also donated $1 million of his own money to the campaign. His campaign now has a war chest of about $2.25 million, Schnur said.
But the campaign will need much more money than that to spread its message, since it costs about $1.3 million $1.5 million to run a TV spot in major statewide markets for a week.
The radio campaign will run statewide and emphasize Ueberroth's history as a bipartisan problem-solver. Ueberroth led the profitable Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. He also led efforts to rebuild Los Angeles after the 1992 riots.