Poll: Whitman, Brown tied in Gov. matchup | TheUnion.com

Poll: Whitman, Brown tied in Gov. matchup

SACRAMENTO – Meg Whitman, the billionaire first-time candidate who says her business smarts will help turn around California’s fiscal fortunes, is in a statistical dead heat with Democrat Jerry Brown in the race for governor, according to the latest Field Poll.

The survey released Wednesday shows the millions of dollars Whitman has spent to blanket California with radio and television ads have had a dramatic effect in improving her name recognition with Californians of all political affiliations, pollster Mark DiCamillo said.

He said the poll validates Whitman’s decision to spend big and spend early.

“I haven’t seen a Republican who’s been competitive in California at the top of the ticket, for president, governor or U.S. Senate, in 15 years,” he said.

Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, has given her campaign at least $39 million and has a roster of highly paid political consultants on her payroll.

Whitman’s lead over Brown, 46 percent to 43 percent, in a hypothetical general election matchup was within the margin of error.

Democrats’ growing voter registration edge in California means it is essential for any Republican running for statewide office to capture a significant number of voters who decline to state a political party, who now comprise 20 percent of the electorate.

Wednesday’s poll found Californians have mixed views of Brown, a former two-term governor who has held elected office for most of his adult life. While the Republicans have campaigned for months, Brown waited until March 2 to declare his candidacy, prompting some union-backed independent groups to begin their own spending campaigns, mostly directed against Whitman.

His spokesman, Sterling Clifford, said voters will choose Brown’s experience and knowledge.

“Meg Whitman spent one year and $40 million to buy a tie with Jerry Brown. So this will be a close and hard-fought race,” he said.

Brown faces no serious opposition for the Democratic nomination.

Whitman’s spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said the candidate’s message of job creation, cutting spending and improving education will resonate with voters.

Brown, who will turn 72 next month, is favored among 18- to 39-year-olds, while Whitman, 53, leads in other age categories.

Whitman is the clear favorite to face Brown in November. She is trouncing state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the June Republican primary, leading 63 percent to 14 percent among likely GOP voters. A quarter remain undecided.

Poizner also is a Silicon Valley multimillionaire who has given his campaign $19 million, but has yet to spend most of it.

He trailed Whitman by 28 points in the last Field Poll, released in January. Despite falling further behind since then, Poizner’s campaign continues to insist that he will wait until the final two months of the primary campaign for most of his advertising.

About half those surveyed still do not know enough about Poizner to form an opinion. But among those who did, more view him negatively than positively, the Field Poll found.

Poizner’s campaign spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said in a statement that Poizner will win over GOP voters with his more conservative positions on illegal immigration and taxes.

“While Meg Whitman has spent unprecedented millions to drive up her name recognition, she has offered no real solutions,” he said.

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