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Further tightening in race between Whitman and Poizner

In keeping with the trend lines emerging in the Republican gubernatorial primary, SurveyUSA shows Steve Poizner drawing within 2 percentage points of Meg Whitman, an indication that the final month of the race could be wild and unpredictable.

In the survey, Whitman has a 39 percent to 37 lead over Poizner, a precipitous drop from its most recent survey less than three weeks ago when her lead was at 22 percentage points (49-to-27).

Other polls had shown Poizner within 10 points, still dramatic given a 50-percentage point lead Whitman held at the peak of her campaign two months ago.

Whitman’s utter dominance among GOP voters has collapsed, along with the sense of inevitability she and her campaign had tried to create early on.

“Steve’s message of cutting taxes and ending illegal immigration is clearly resonating with Republican voters,” said Jarrod Agen, Poizner’s spokesman. “A grassroots candidate like Steve Poizner is what voters are looking for, not an out of touch non-voter like Meg Whitman.”

Whitman’s campaign did not refute that the race was tightening, but said that the 2-point margin was not realistic. SurveyUSA’s methodology is less scientific than most creditable polls, said Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin. They use a robo poll, in which voters answer quickly by a push of a button to indicate their choice.

Whitman’s own internal polling was completed last week, and the Whitman team hasn’t disclosed the results, suggesting the race is a lot less comfortable to talk about than they’d like.

“There will be a number of polls in this race,” said Sarah Pompei, Whitman’s spokeswoman. “We’re confident that on Election Day, Californians will reject Sacramento politicians and choose Meg because she is the only fiscal conservative running for governor.”

Here’s a short news clip from KABC in Los Angeles, which commissioned the SurveyUSA poll (disregard the 0.0 percent margin of error at the bottom of the screen. It’s 4.3 percent):

And here’s KABC’s previous report when Poizner had closed to within 22 points, which has some interesting back and forth between Poizner and Whitman (who was already talking about looking forward to the general election):

Steven Harmon