Who’s the latest politico who seems to be battered by voter anger towards the establishment and Wall Street insiders? Surprisingly, it’s Meg Whitman, the billionaire who wants to be California Governor to replace millionaire actor Arnold Schwarzenegger — a governor who will leave office with poll ratings so low you can almost see the polar bears. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Meg Whitman, the billionaire Republican candidate for governor, has plunged in polls as rapidly as she once ascended, dropping from a 50-point lead in March to single digits in a poll released Wednesday.
Whitman’s rise earlier this year relied largely on a single overwhelming factor — a personal fortune she has tapped for $68 million so far, allowing her to flood the airwaves for months. But her decline stems from a host of factors, according to political analysts and strategists.
Her opponent Steve Poizner’s attack on her as being too liberal on illegal immigration lacked traction for weeks, then found footing with the passage of a tough new Arizona law that Whitman opposed.
The business background that was an early advantage for the former EBay chief turned into a liability with publicity about her ties to a controversial Wall Street firm.
Attacks from both the right, via Poizner, and the left, from Democrats, left Whitman whipsawed. Anti-establishment voters may have taken their angst out on a high-flying frontrunner.
The result: According to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, Whitman’s once-massive lead over state Insurance Commissioner Poizner has dwindled to nine points, 38% to 29%. Whitman’s support dropped 23 points in two months, the survey showed, while Poizner gained 18 points. Democrat Jerry Brown now narrowly leads Whitman in a general election matchup, a reversal of their standing in March.
Since the primary is June 8 and the airwaves are peppered with Whitman ads, this poll’s results aren’t good trending for Whitman.mPoizner has, among other things, accused of being too liberal on immigration, a charge that sparked a somewhat defensive rebuttal ad.
The San Francisco Chronicle notes that the beneficiary of what’s occuring among GOPers and Whitman’s dwindling lead is former Governor Jerry Brown — who wants to become Governor Jerry Brown (again):
“The mood of the electorate is unstable and uncertain,” said institute President and CEO Mark Baldassare. “They’re in the search mode for solutions, and they’re not necessarily in a place where they are believing what they hear.” Instead, “they’re in a wait-and-see mode to try to learn as much as they can,” he said.
Since March, Whitman has lost most of what was considered to be an insurmountable 50-point lead. She now holds a 38 to 29 percent lead over Poizner among GOP voters, according to the poll taken May 9-16. Poizner has donated $24 million of his own money to his campaign.
If the election were held today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, who has spent no money on ads and held his first official event this week, would beat each of the GOP hopefuls in head-to-head matchups, the poll found.
Brown, the state attorney general and former two-term governor, leads Whitman 42 to 37 percent and Poizner 45 to 32 percent. Brown faces no significant opposition in the Democratic primary election.
The Republicans will face an uncertain race no matter what. Many Californians are unhappy with both parties. Although Schwarzenegger is a different kind of Republican, it’s on his watch that the state’s economic health has plummeted worse than ever and there have been draconian budget cuts — with even more draconian cuts coming soon to a beloved agency or program in California near you. (PERSONAL NOTE: In the past 24 hours I learned of 5 people who I know losing their jobs here — all economy related).
Californians will have to decide whether to go back to the party they happily kicked out from controlling the Governor’s office to put in “Ahnold,” whether to kick out the party that controls the Governor’s office now. Most Californians — if they remember when Brown was governor at all — don’t have bad memories of Jerry Brown as Governor. He wasn’t a hated governor, even though the late Johnny Carson derisively called him “Governor Moonbeam.”
But Whitman’s fall the polls has been surprising, indeed — and has experts talking. The San Jose Mercury:
A new poll says Meg Whitman’s one-time 50-point lead over Steve Poizner has dwindled to single digits, leading some political analysts to fathom what seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago: Poizner actually has a chance of winning the GOP primary for governor.
Buoyed by tough talk on illegal immigration and Whitman’s ties to tainted Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, Poizner has closed the gap to 9 points, according to the Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday night: Thirty-eight percent favored Whitman and 29 percent Poizner — with 31 percent undecided.
“That’s gold to Poizner,” said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State political scientist. “It isn’t just a matter of Whitman’s leadshrinking but also a matter of the undecideds growing. It’s a double whammy.
“If he wins, this will be the campaign for the ages.”
The poll reflects a tightening in the race that the two campaigns’ own surveys have been showing for more than a week.
Mark Baldassare, the PPIC’s chief executive, agreed that the large number of undecided voters “shows that Republican voters are still in search mode” days after they could begin mailing in their ballots ahead of the June 8 election.
….Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a veteran political analyst at the University of Southern California, said everyone, including Whitman’s strategists, “knew the race had to tighten, but I don’t think they expected to fall so far and so fast.”
If the trending continues, Whitman could be in trouble for the nomination. And and if she squeaks through experienced pol Jerry Brown will be poised, ready to spring on a weakened GOP candidate in a state where residents seem to get more bad economic or state budget related news day after day.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.