SAN FRANCISCO, June 4 (Reuters) – Former eBay Inc Chief Executive Meg Whitman holds a two-to-one lead among voters over California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in their race for the Republican nomination for governor, according a Field Poll report released on Friday.
Poizner, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur, since March has nearly halved billionaire front-runner Whitman’s lead in their race for the party’s nomination but he faces a seemingly insurmountable gap as California’s June 8 primary election nears, said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo.
“The odds are clearly in Whitman’s favor,” DiCamillo said. “There is not a lot there to move it over into Poizner’s column.”
San Francisco-based Field Poll’s final pre-election survey on the race found Whitman leading Poizner by a 51 percent to 25 percent margin among likely Republican primary voters, with another 6 percent preferring other candidates and 18 percent undecided.
Worse for Poizner is that the Field Poll found Whitman strongly favored across the Republican spectrum, including its conservative core.
She leads Poizner among voters identifying themselves as strongly conservative by 52 percent to his 26 percent and enjoys a big lead with Republicans identifying with the populist Tea Party movement.
“Among this segment of voters Whitman holds a thirty-point lead, only marginally greater than the twenty-three point lead she holds among those who do not identify a lot with the Tea Party,” the Field Poll report said.
Republicans likely to vote early by mail and those who will vote in precincts also overwhelmingly back Whitman. “It doesn’t seem to matter what cut of Republican voter we get, it still seems to favor Whitman,” DiCamillo said.
WILL AND WALLET TO WIN
Whitman appears to have impressed Republicans with a “will to win” and deep pockets for funding a general election campaign after spending more than $70 million of her own money in her primary effort, DiCamillo said.
He noted Republicans see Whitman as a stronger candidate than Poizner — by 61 percent to 21 percent — in a match-up against Democrat Jerry Brown, California’s current attorney general and a former governor who has his party’s nomination for governor sewn up.
Whitman and Poizner combined have spent more than $110 million — a record amount in primary election in California — to win the Republican nomination to succeed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, also a Republican, and are inn the home-stretch of their battle blanketing the state with negative advertising.
Poizner charges Whitman with being soft on illegal immigration, an issue that spilled into California from neighboring Arizona where officials recently approved a controversial law cracking down on undocumented migrants. Whitman ads charge Poizner is contrary to his claims a liberal on taxes and spending.
Analysts expect California’s next governor to take office as the most populous U.S. state struggles to emerge from a harsh economic slump caused by the mortgage crisis, housing’s implosion and the widespread loss of household wealth and jobs as financial markets tumbled — and to contend with one of the nation’s most partisan state legislatures.
At 12.6 percent, California’s unemployment rate is one of the worst in the nation and has helped open a $19.1 billion shortfall in the state budget.
Schwarzenegger, in his final term, and the Democrat-led legislature are sharply at odds over how to balance the state’s books. He wants deep spending cuts and no tax increases. Democrats are calling for delaying corporate tax breaks, a tax on oil production and borrowing from state funds. Republican lawmakers whose votes are needed for a budget have ruled out tax increases.
The Field Poll findings are based on a survey from May 27 through June 2 of 511 likely voters in California’s Republican primary election. The survey’s maximum sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)