Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has seized a commanding lead in the GOP primary race for California governor, leading The Wall Street Journal to declare that she has "all but locked up" the race to challenge former Gov. Jerry Brown in the general election.
Whitman was expected to face a tough test from state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who like Whitman is a millionaire entrepreneur who made a fortune doing business in Silicon Valley before entering politics.
A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows Whitman opening up a whopping 50-point lead over Poizner in the primary election. 61 percent of voters who say they're likely to vote in the Republican primary identify Whitman as their choice, compared to 11 percent for Poizner.
That is a remarkable change from January, when Whitman led Poizner in an earlier Public Policy Institute poll by 41 percent to 11 percent. Adding to the impression that Whitman is poised for a primary landslide: A Field Poll released March 17 showing Whitman leading Poizner by 63 percent to 14 percent in the primary.
While the media is emphasizing that Whitman has spent millions of her own money to seize the momentum in the primary, the polls suggest that Whitman has been able to connect with economically strapped Californians hit hard by the recession.
In an exclusive Newsmax interview in January, Whitman told Newsmax that job creation would be priority No. 1: "I want to focus first and foremost on creating and keeping jobs in California. This has to be about jobs," she said.
Whitman has maintained a high-profile role in politics since the 2008 presidential election, when she served as co-chairman of Sen. John McCain's campaign.
One of her big supporters is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has said that with her business and executive expertise Whitman would make the perfect governor for the Golden State. The early polls for the general election are suggesting that Californians so far agree. In a potential race against Brown, the presumed Democratic nominee, Whitman is leading 44 percent to 39 percent according to the Public Policy Poll.
Some California leaders have suggested Brown, 71, may not be able to offer the fresh political approach many voters appear to be looking for in this election cycle. His campaign appears to be trying to suggest he is the voice of experience who marches to his own drumbeat.
The Wall Street Journal quotes Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford as saying Brown offers "an insider's knowledge with an outsider's mind."
Whitman will probably be able to outspend Brown many times over. She has already reportedly invested over $45 million in her run for governor, much of it her own money. Brown so far only has $14 million in his campaign coffers, according to published reports.
A request for comment from Poizner's office received no immediate response Thursday afternoon.
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