Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown are delivering their closing arguments to California voters, appearing at events throughout the Golden State as they pitch their proposals to turn the financially troubled state around.
Public opinion polls have shown Brown is leading Whitman. But the billionaire former chief executive of eBay says she’s confident that her plans to cut spending and regulations will resonate with California voters who will cast their ballots Tuesday.
"I like to think about it as two more days before a lot of good things happen," she told a crowd of about 300 supporters gathered at a Burbank hotel on Sunday. "In two more days we're going to start bringing really good jobs back to California."
Whitman and her supporters say they believe the same energy behind Republicans nationwide will result in a GOP sweep in California, enough to overcome a 13 percentage point Democratic voter-registration advantage.
The optimism may not be unfounded: The latest survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, taken over the weekend and released Monday, shows Whitman drawing 46 percent support among likely voters, within five points of Brown’s 51 percent support. That’s a big improvement over a Field Poll released Thursday, in which Brown held a double-digit lead at 49 percent to Whitman’s 39 percent.
Brown maintained a vigorous schedule throughout the weekend, receiving a warm welcome from hundreds of supporters at campaign stops that crisscrossed the state on Sunday, from a historic cookhouse in far Northern California to a Mexican restaurant in the southern Inland Empire — two areas that have suffered tough times because of the state's battered economy.
Brown said the state should look to its inspiring past for guidance on the future, evoking California's pioneering spirit that motivated so many to settle there, including his great-grandfather who came across the plains from Missouri in 1852.
"They had courage, they were willing to take risks, they were going into the unknown," Brown said at the Broadway Heights restaurant in Chico on Sunday, where the crowd filled two stories of the building and spilled onto the street corner. "That pioneering spirit is exactly what will get us through again."
Brown planned to start his day in San Diego, after which he planned to appear with the rest of the statewide Democratic ticket in Los Angeles, stop in Salinas and wrap up his campaign with a fireworks show in Oakland, the city where he used to be mayor.
Whitman planned to rally volunteers who will be trying to get out the vote for Republicans in Woodland Hills, Orange County, San Diego, and Temecula.
She cast the election as a "battle for the soul of California."
Whitman, a billionaire who has given her campaign $142 million from her personal fortune, pitched her business experience as an asset, while Brown reminded voters that he's done the job before. He was governor from 1975 to 1983.
Throughout the weekend, Whitman cast herself as a "proven job creator" who would be ready to tackle the state's deficit with deep cuts to public payroll and entitlement programs, while growing the economy with the classic GOP approach of deregulation and tax cuts.
"Our problems are tough, aren't they? But so am I," Whitman told a crowd of about 300 supporters before green, orange, and white confetti was dropped in the convention room.
Whitman has been traveling to campaign events over the weekend on a bus labeled the "Take Back Sac Express."
Members of the California Nurses Association have been following Whitman's bus and protesting outside her events, targeting Whitman's plans to cut state spending even further.
California's general fund budget already is about $15 billion less than it was three years ago, and nurses say more cuts will endanger public health programs and public schools.
Jill Furillo, 59, a registered nurse from Los Angeles who protested outside the Burbank hotel before Whitman's Sunday campaign event, said she was concerned about what a Whitman administration would mean to healthcare programs.
"We don't trust she's acting in the best interest of our patients and the people of our state," Furillo said.
Meanwhile, Brown drew on his family roots to recall the pioneering spirit that beckoned so many here during stops in northern and central California.
Brown told a breakfast crowd of about 200 people gathered at the historic Samoa Cookhouse in the far North Coast near the hard-pressed lumber and fishing town of Eureka that although there are tough times ahead, he is optimistic about the state's future because of its resilience.
"California has been a place that attracts people because they have a future," Brown said. "You know, it attracted Meg Whitman 30 years ago. It is still attracting people. And why is it? Because here's a place, wherever you come from, you come to California and you're welcome."
He appeared later in the afternoon alongside other Democratic candidates, including San Francisco Mayor and lieutenant governor-hopeful Gavin Newsom, at a rally in a downtown Sacramento park. He talked about how his great-grandfather drove the stagecoach in the area.
"Boy, things were a little tougher then, for the pioneers," Brown said. "They came here because they wanted to get away from where they were, and they knew California was a place of opportunity."
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