Poll: Whitman legit in California governor's race

Legal News Line Jan. 19, 2009, 10:10am

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - A new poll shows 2010 could be a better year for the Republicans, following a disastrous 2008.

The Jan. 14 poll of 550 likely voters found former eBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman, who has made several moves lately to organize for a run for governor of California in 2010, would lead possible Democratic contenders San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Whitman, a newcomer to politics who gave her first political speech during the Republican presidential convention in support of Sen. John McCain, also fared well against veteran politician California Attorney General Jerry Brown. The poll gave Brown a narrow 40 to 38 percent lead over Whitman.

The results show a significant change in public perception from just a few months ago when a field poll found that more than two-thirds of likely voters had no opinion about Whitman.

Whitman, whose personal fortune reportedly in the billions could be used to finance a significant statewide campaign, would face off with fellow Silicon Valley billionaire Steven Poizner in a Republican primary. As the state insurance commissioner, Poizner can tout political and campaign experience Whitman lacks.

In contrast, Whitman's personal voting record caused early scrutiny when published reports documented she failed to vote in more than half of the state's elections over the past several years.

Whitman, 52, spent a decade as the CEO of eBay after joining the start-up company in 1998. She joined the company when it had roughly 30 employees and oversaw its expansion into a multibillion dollar company. Time Magazine has ranked her as one of the world's most influential people on several occasions.

California political analysts believe Whitman will be a serious contender despite the heavily Democratic leaning of the state. With the economy sure to be the dominant issue for the foreseeable future, Whitman and Poizner's business success will play well with voters.

"Their candidacies need to be taken very seriously," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, of Poizner and Whitman. "They both have management experience, they both have resources. And in Meg Whitman's case she'd be the first woman, which for women still smarting from the Hillary Clinton loss could be a factor. I don't think you can underestimate either candidate."

Now the polls agree.

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