As the most colourful election campaign in US history nears its conclusion, only a few candidates have a serious chance of replacing the California governor – or spoiling someone else’s prospects.
The former Austrian body builder, Mr Universe, and star of Conan the Barbarian and its sequels finally hit the celebrity jackpot as the robotic character in the Terminator movie series during the 1980s and 1990s. Arnie also reinvented himself as a businessman with a major stake in the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain.
In 1987, he entered the world of politics - by marrying the niece of John F Kennedy, Maria Shriver, a member of America's Democratic royal family, although the muscle-bound actor stands on the right of the US political spectrum.
A self-styled “fiscal conservative, social moderate”, Schwarzenegger vows not to raise taxes but reckons he can still balance the budget – which means spending cuts. Leading in the opinion polls, the 56-year-old also favours more controls on illegal aliens and disapproves of gay marriage.
A veteran Republican and state senator, McClintock has become the standard bearer of the hardline conservative right. He alone among the main candidates opposes abortion and promises never to raise taxes. He also prefers relatively few restrictions on gun ownership. Spending cuts look guaranteed should he get in.
Arianna Huffington dropped out
of race warning of rightwing coup
His strong conservative stances mean McClintock is unlikely to win over many disenchanted Democrats or undecided middle-of-the-road voters. But he may hurt the more moderate Schwarzenegger by convincing Republican voters that political experience and ideological purity count for more than celebrity and muscles.
Unlike other serious Republican candidates, McClintock has remained adamant he will stay in the recall race “until the finish line” and “will not get out under any circumstances”.
He may lack the charisma, national recognition, funds, glamour and exotic accents of his rivals. But Camejo does come armed with a basketful of progressive sensible-sounding polices.
The Green Party candidate urges more clean and renewable energy. Camejo has also said the rich pay too little tax. Against the death penalty, he has called for more investment in schools, instead of prisons - lowering college tuition to an affordable level while cutting the prison budget.
The Greens are unlikely to capture the governship even in this relatively progressive state, but the size of their slice of the vote could help determine the winner in this divided field by eating into the Democrat vote.
California's lieutenant governor initially appeared as a reluctant runner who only joined the field in case his boss, Governor Gray Davis, was dumped by voters.
Arnie(R) boosted his credibility by
hiring financier Warren Buffett
However, Bustamante own ambitions have surfaced as the campaign has gone on and he has increasingly sounded like a real candidate – increasing the chances of dissatisfied Democrats turning from Davis to his deputy. Opinion polls show him running second behind Arnie.
The state's first Latino assembly speaker, Bustamante is offering a “tough love” budget plan to rescue the state’s finances, including $7.9 billion in taxes and fees, and $4.5 billion in cuts and savings – a package that may well be necessary but sounds scary.
And the one who got away...
In the running until a few days ago, Huffington was once described as “the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus”. Once a prominent Republican writer, she married conservative Texas oil billionaire Michael Huffington in 1986 and played a major role in his unsuccessful $28 million bid for a senate seat in 1994. Later, the couple divorced and Michael declared he was gay.
The glamorous Arianna went through some changes herself. She swung to the left and became a favourite among political progressives for her columns, popular books and witty chat show attacks on the right wing - delivered in her distinctive Greek accent.
The 53-year-old has dubbed the recall election an attempted power grab by the right, and until last Tuesday was running as an independent – thereby splitting the leftwing vote. But her decision to pull out has given the Democrat field - and perhaps Camejo - a small late boost.