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Field Poll: Why Brown is Ahead, Willing to Go Positive

3:01 AM ET, 10/28/2010

Gaining hugely among women, independents, and Latinos in the past month, Democrat Jerry Brown now leads Republican Meg Whitman 49-39% among likely voters in the governor’s race, according to the authoritative Field Poll – widely regarded as the most accurate political survey in California.

Despite spending $38 million from Sept. 1 to the middle of October – and many millions since – Whitman has only made herself more unpopular, while Brown, who spent about $24 million in the same period, saw his popularity improve slightly. Whitman’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating is now 42-51%, slightly worse than her 40-45% standing in September. Meanwhile, Brown’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating now is 47-47% compared to 44-47% in September.

Team Krusty, it seems, has made the election a referendum on Whitman’s character while the Armies of eMeg have been unable to force voters to focus on their narrative about Brown’s record on the issues, which they calculated would frame the race.

Essentially, Whitman’s extravagant TV campaign, overseen by veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy, has failed either to make his candidate popular or to knock Brown off his stride. But Brown’s guerilla advertising, made by longtime associate Joe Trippi and his shop, have driven up Whitman’s negatives while making Brown seem more authentic and knowledgeable.

The Brown campaign unveiled a killer ad on Wednesday, this one simply clips from the Women’s Conference interaction on Tuesday among NBC’s Matt Lauer, Brown and Whitman in which Brown agrees to take any negative ads off the air if Whitman will do the same. But she refused.

On Wednesday, the Brown campaign gave Whitman 24 hours to decide if she would accept the no-negative-ad challenge before putting the ad on the air (although it’s not really a negative) and said he’d call on all those groups supporting him to take down their negative ads if she would agree to do the same.

“Jerry Brown’s phony pledge is just what you would expect from a cynical career politician,” replied Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Rivera. “Jerry Brown is hypocritically pledging to take down negative ads, while his allies are launching new negative spots at the very same time.”

Brown’s comfort with taking down all negative ads reflects his lead in public and private surveys. In today’s Field Poll, Brown is pulling about eight in 10 Democrats while Whitman has about three-fourths of the Republicans. But among independents – the crucial, cross-over voters who determine statewide elections in California  – Brown has taken a commanding 49-33% lead, up from a 38-38% tie in September.

Brown also has captured a big-time lead among women – 51-35%.  Asked Wednesday on a conference call with reporters, why Whitman is doing so poorly among women, Steve Glazer, Brown’s campaign manager replied: “Through words and deeds she’s been unable to connect and create any credibility and trust.”

Likewise, among Latinos, who had flirted with Whitman until learning that she had unceremoniously fired her housekeeper of nine years and would deny a path to citizenship even for undocumented college graduates, the Attorney General has soared to 57-27%, driving Whitman’s margin below the campaign’s target of one-third of Latino voters.

The only broad categories in which Whitman now leads outside of the poll’s 3.2% margin of error are Republicans, Southern California outside of Los Angeles (50-37%)  and inland counties (47-38%). But those inland counties only account for 29% of the vote and in coastal counties, which make up 71% of the vote, Brown leads 53-25%. Much of that comes from Brown’s huge 58-30% lead in Los Angeles County and massive 61-28% margin in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Because voting-by-mail has already begun in California, the Field Poll was able to break voters into three categories: 1) permanent absentee voters (known in the trade as PAVs)  who have already voted (21%); 2) those PAVs who will vote (34%); and 3) those who plan to vote Nov. 2 at their precinct (45%).

Among all PAVs, Brown leads 48-40%, including by 48-41% among those who have already voted. He also leads 49-38% among those who plan to vote Nov. 2. The element of certainty among those who have already voted, coupled with the very tight ratio of Democrats-to-Republicans in the likely voter sample – 44% D and 39% R (compared to a 13% spread in official registration) – already incorporates effects of the so-called enthusiasm gap that is said to favor Republicans this election cycle.

Moreover, Field’s likely voter sample contains just 51% women, while many pollsters, including last week’s Los Angeles Times/USC Survey, anticipate that women will comprise 53% of the total electorate. If that is accurate, then the Field Poll could actually be understating the vote for Brown. In addition, Field’s likely voter sample contains 16% Latinos – a proportion that is three percentage points below registration.

The Field Poll interviewed a random sample of 1,501 registered voters, listed in the Secretary of State’s voter file by landline or cell phone, depending on their listing in the official file. From them, Field culled 1,092 likely voters who said they had already voted or who said they were “absolutely certain” to vote and whose voting history – if they were not newly registered – suggested they were likely to vote. Likely voters in Field’s survey constitute 73% of the registered voters who completed interviews.

Interviewing was conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese in two waves: Oct 14-19 and Oct 20-26. The margin of error for the overall likely voter sample is +/- 3.2%.

Calbuzz obtained the Field Poll from sources because our offer to become paid subscribers has been refused.

Can’t anybody here play this game? The Giants won ugly to open the Blue State-Red State World Series on Wednesday, drubbing the Texas Rangers 11-7, but the Calbuzz MVP of Game One was Joe Garofoli of the hometown S.F. daily.

While many others fell for eMeg’s tired stunt of placing a joke wager with a politician from the rival state in the Series,  Joe Ballgame alone called out the candidate for shameless band wagon pandering by trying to associate herself with the sensational story of the Giants’ unlikely run into the Fall Classic.

Among his other well-placed criticisms, he noted that she phoned Texas Governor Rick Perry to make the phony bet from a surf shop in San Diego, a town represented baseball-wise by the Padres, the club San Francisco beat to get into the playoffs.

Now we strongly suspect that, if Her Megness actually ever did show up for a ballgame, she’d a) be wearing a cashmere sweater tied loosely around her shoulders; b) order a glass of chablis from the beer guy; and c) ask at the concession stand if she could get a tofu dog on a whole wheat bun. All that aside, however, we can only shake our heads at the breathtaking presumption of a rookie pol, who’s never been elected to anything, not only poaching on the perquisites of California’s actual governor but also anointing herself head cheerleader for a ball club, let alone an entire state.

Instead of just accepting the brushback pitch that she clearly deserved, and that Garofoli quite properly delivered, however, Team Whitman thought it a good idea to pick a fight over Joe’s original item.

Insisting eMeg’s status as a Giants fan was long-standing, they sent him a clip of an interview with a San Diego TV station in which she said she was rooting for the G-men in the playoffs, apparently to demonstrate her willingness to take a tough stance even if it meant offending viewers in Padre-town.

Only problem was, the interview happened on Oct. 18, 15 days after the Giants beat the Padres on the last day of the regular season to win the National League West division crown and knock the San Diegans out of the post-season.  Sheesh.

As such an avid fan, Meg, here’s some Giants slang you’ll no doubt appreciate: Grab some pine, meat.


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About Calbuzz

Calbuzz is the creation of Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine, former political editors of the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury News. They have covered California politics for more than 60 years. One of the most influential forces in the state, Calbuzz is insightful, sharp, fair and funny.
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