Whitman and the Poll Drop: So It's a Race After All

Before we crunch the numbers lets go ahead and anticipate the talking points for today: Meg Whitman will be in Camarillo this morning and she will be talking with the media.

The subject will come up and she will say the following: “We knew the race was going to get tighter at the end.”

“He’s spent 15 million dollars spreading falsehoods about me and that has something to do with it.”

“The only poll that counts is the one on election day.”

The first answer is true, the second is sort of ‘half’ true and the third use to be the case but isn’t quite so anymore.

The former eBay CEO spent a fortune on media since the end of last year and as a result catapulted ahead in the GOP race for Governor. Two months ago she had a 40 point lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. But Poizner still had money and the Whitman people remained a little fearful. Hoping that they would insure entice Poizner to blow his cash well before the election the Whitman campaign went negative early (“reason #12 why not to trust Steve Poizner: he wears ballet slippers”) Poiz didn’t bite. Instead he saved much of his war chest until now and is using it to pummel Whitman on Immigration and Goldman Sachs… two issues he was handed late in the game (see related article)

And the punches have been landing.

The Public Police Institute of California says Whitman’s support has dropped 23 points since March and now her lead over Poizner is 38 to 29 percent among registered Republicans likely to vote in the June primary. Now that’s still a nine point lead… but it is a far cry from where it was.

Poizner has also pulled down Whitman’s numbers against Democrat Jerry Brown. In a hypothetical race Brown, who once trailed Whitman, now leads by several points. Whitman still does better against Brown than Poizner does but that doesn’t seem to matter much with Republican voters.

What is pulling Whitman down, or so it seems, is her approach to illegal immigration. While she has former Governor Pete Wilson on the radio saying she would be “tough as nails” on the issue, the fact is Whitman opposes SB 1070 in Arizona. While that measure may be unpopular with most politicians, and the media, the fact is the vast majority of voters around the nation and in California agree with it. Poizner's attacks that Whitman benefited personally from her ties with Goldman Sachs may also have an immigration component in that the ads maker her appear like the kind of rich CEO who employs undocumented workers and has little regard if they are taking roofing, drywall or construction jobs.

Meg still may win. If not she will own a dubious record: that of the most expensive, but failed, campaign in California history.

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