On eve of Calif. election, Whitman begins shifting gears
By Sandhya Somashekhar
COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Meg Whitman played it safe on Monday afternoon when she dropped by a phone-bank operation on the eve of the Republican primary for governor.
The former eBay CEO made a few generic remarks, thanking the supporters who crowded around her with green "Meg 2010" signs and adding more gravely that the work was far from finished. She swept around the room flanked by staffers, who guided her and made sure to keep the way clear as she came through to greet individual volunteers. She did not take questions from reporters.
Whitman has tended to be guarded on the campaign trail, and it was perhaps understandable that she was particularly so on the eve of Tuesday's vote. She has spent more than $70 million of her own vast fortune on this contest and is not keen to lose the 25-point advantage she held in recent polls over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.
"I will tell you, I'm very competitive, and it isn't over until it's over," she told supporters.
But there were signs that she had already shifted her strategy to a general election approach.
Shortly after the event, she issued a news release criticizing her likely Democratic opponent, former governor Jerry Brown, for an op-ed Sunday in the San Diego Union-Tribune that laid out the reasons for his candidacy.
She also kept her remarks focused on jobs and the state budget, avoiding a divisive discussion of illegal immigration. Both Poizner and Whitman have sought to appear tough on the issue, and Costa Mesa would have been a perfect place to bring it up. Town leaders have taken a hard line on the issue compared with some of its Southern California neighbors, proposing that police check suspected criminals' immigration status and targeting informal soccer games in public parks.
Poizner took an opposite approach earlier in the day during a town-hall style event in Pasadena. It was sponsored by a local tea party group, and Poizner sought at every turn to bolster his conservative credentials. He told an anecdote about being accused while door-knocking of being a capitalist. "Guilty as charged," he said. He peppered his remarks with references to "individual liberty," Ronald Reagan and the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which refers to states' rights.
On either side of the stage were television screens that said "Stop Illegal Immigration." He argued that the source of California's budget problems and 12 percent unemployment rate was an unfriendly business environment and a permissive attitude toward illegal immigrants.
"This is the worst of all worlds, right?" he said. "We have consumers of government services coming in, we have taxpaying citizens leaving. No wonder we can't balance the budget."
In an interview after the event, he suggested that the GOP primary campaign had not been a fair fight because of Whitman's self-financing. He noted that polls had vacillated in recent weeks and argued that he still had a chance. "We're getting the word out. The volatility in the polls is an indication that people are still confused, still doing their homework," he said.
June 7, 2010; 10:00 PM ET
Categories: 2010 Election , 44 The Obama Presidency
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