A hunger to be part of the process

Alleged Gov. Gray Davis might as well throw in the towel. According to the highly respected Taco Bell poll, his campaign to defeat the recall is now backed by a wimpy 3% of California voters. To make matters worse, he also has an exciting new competitor.

Although other surveys have shown the governor within striking range of victory, their results are considered unreliable because they're based on scientific sampling methods rather than what kind of tacos people buy.

The Taco Bell poll, which began last week, ranks the candidates according to menu item popularity. Beef crunchy tacos count as votes for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and chicken soft taco purchases go toward Davis.

Davis' strategy of keeping other Democrats off the Taco Bell ballot unraveled Tuesday when the restaurant chain added a Cruz Bustamante item to its poll.

"Californians are asking for Bustamante and we're delivering him," said Taco Bell pollsters. "He's now the big chalupa."

The "No on recall, yes on chalupa" option could be a turning point in the recall race.

Here are the pre-chalupa survey results, which were compiled between Thursday and Monday: Schwarzenegger led with 54%; chicken soft Davis had a paltry 3%; and the "stuft" burrito, which serves as a catchall vote for the 134 other candidates on the ballot, came in at a surprisingly strong 43%.

At press time, Florida election officials had been called in to see how many of the stuft burrito votes belonged to Bustamante.

Still no word on whether Taco Bell might add menu items for other candidates, such as a foie gras burrito to represent Brentwood gadfly Arianna Huffington.

Quote of the day

From San Jose Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy, commenting on Schwarzenegger's choice of Warren Buffett as a senior economic advisor: "Buffett's first contribution was to say our property taxes are too low. Oh yeah? Well, I've got an idea. Buffett has 30-some billion dollars. We need 30-some billion dollars. Fork it over."

Late-night blotter

"The recall election is reportedly going to cost California $67 million. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, 'Don't worry, we'll make that back opening weekend.' " (Craig Kilborn)


"Recall Madness" runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in the Calendar section. E-mail roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. Columns are archived at www.latimes.com/recallmadness.

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