Poizner says the polls don’t mean anything yet

Poizner at Livermore CoC 1-11-10When I watched Steve Poizner pitch his platform to the Fremont Chamber of Commerce in early October, he was in third place behind GOP primary rivals Meg Whitman and Tom Campbell.

As he pitched his platform to the Livermore Chamber of Commerce this morning – three months later and another $15 million committed from his own pocket – he’s probably in third place still. But to hear him tell it, he’s got ‘em just where he wants ‘em.

“The polls aren’t really ans issue for us right now because we know most of the state has never heard of me,” he told me after the forum with local business owners – perhaps a difficult admission for one of California’s eight statewide constitutional officers to have to make.

Whitman has spent an “unprecedented, huge sum of money early” on a barrage of radio and television (sorry, my bad) ads to build her name recognition, and that’s why she leads in the polls for now, he said.

But a huge percentage of GOP primary voters – 44 percent, by the Public Policy Institute of California’s numbers early last month – remain undecided.

Poizner meanwhile has been running like a jackrabbit up and down the state doing small-venue meetings like this mornings with chambers of commerce and other community groups to build some from-the-ground-up goodwill and name recognition. He said he’s launching his own TV blitz soon, and he’s confident many of those undecideds – and even some of those saying they support Whitman or Campbell – will rally to his story: a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has taught school, worked on homeland security strategy in the Bush White House, and has “right-sized” one state department already as Insurance Commissioner.

“Meg and I are really different and most people don’t realize that yet,” he said, adding voters have “had enough of celebrities, they’ve had enough of rookies.”

Hmmm. We’ll know for sure in five months.

My article has the policy highlights from Poizner’s visit to Livermore today, but among other tidbits, he spoke about fixing California’s “completely mismanaged” public schools by wresting control over curriculum, teaching methods, textbooks and teacher hiring away from Sacramento in favor of local control, much as charter schools do.

And although he said he favors building desalinization plants to ease California’s long-term water outlook, the Delta pumps must be turned back on in the short term, he said. He believes the 10th Amendment’s protection of states’ rights makes a federal judge’s decision to silence the pumps unconstitutional, he said, and he would pressure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to help California get a waiver from the Endangered Species Act to allow the water pumping, as was done for New Mexico in 2003: “If I were the governor, I’d be camping out in front of her office.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.