The pre-PPIC spin has begun, and, if Meg Whitman’s team’s had anything to do with it, we’d discount the survey because the Public Policy Institute of California was out of the field (finished polling) before Whitman’s punch-back TV ad had a chance to work its way into the viewing public’s mind.
It’s an obvious attempt to limit the damage before it comes down the pike. The poll’s results will be released to the public late Wednesday night.
The PPIC poll will be the first public poll to show her Republican rival in the gubernatorial primary, Steve Poizner, drawing to within single digit percentage points behind Whitman, reflecting a number of internal polls that had signaled his comeback after he trailed by as much as 50 points.
It will be an affirmation of a collapse of epic proportions, a $60 million machine that would be in receivership if the currency were bankable ideas. After all that cash, all those gauzy ads and marketing schemes, all that trouble to insulate Whitman and elevate her as the inevitable candidate, it’s basically back to square one. With three weeks to go.
Whitman folks, though, suggest that Poizner has peaked, and that she’s on her way back to a double-digit lead. They produced a new poll, all but ignored by a press that’s not buying it, showing her with a 17.5 point lead over Poizner — 49 percent to 31.5 percent. The poll was conducted by M4 Strategies (the four m’s standing for Message, Messenger, Medium and Momentum) on behalf of the Small Business Action Committee.
Oh, by the way, the SBAC, headed by President Joel Fox, endorsed Whitman in March. So count that as an internal poll whose likely intent was to alter the horse-race metrics.
Whitman folks say her own comeback started with a widely panned ad that has the former CEO of eBay looking into the camera reassuring Republican voters that she’s “working hard to defeat” Barbara Boxer, leaving open the question of who Whitman is actually running against. She also defends her position on immigration, the issue that Poizner has seized by announcing his support of the Arizona anti-illegal immigration law, and by accusing Whitman of supporting amnesty.
Another reason to discount the PPIC poll, Whitman’s people say, is that her Get Out The Vote effort has swung into action just in time to capture early voters casting absentee ballots. Whitman has begun a massive mailing campaign, which could have an impact with early voters. Having campaign literature on hand as you fill out your absentee ballot holds its own level of influence, especially if there is no competing message. The Poizner campaign concedes it has not begun in earnest its own mailing campaign.
Another factor in her favor, Whitman’s people say, is that the furor over Goldman Sachs appears to have calmed down. Poizner has stopped running his “Vulture” ad, and there hasn’t been much in the way of new developments on that front. (It’ll be interesting to see if Goldman Sachs will have died out as an issue in the general election — if Whitman makes it — because it’s been so played out in the primary. Remember the 1988 presidential campaign, when George H.W. Bush took his hardest hits in the Republican primary over Iran-Contra, and when Mike Dukakis tried to raise it in the general, he got a big fat ho-hum from the press?)
Poizner’s campaign spokesman, Jarrod Agen, dismissed the Whitman analysis as “spin coming from a campaign losing momentum. For weeks they were talking about how they were going to win and saying we should get out. It didn’t happen. Now they say they’ve got a better turnout operation. That’s what you say when your message isn’t working.”
Agen scoffed at the notion that Whitman’s new ad would have any impact. First, he said, it’s not being run as often as previous ads. It’s difficult to find open slots for 60-second ads.
More important, he said, the ad is “way off message. It comes across as defensive and confusing. She’s talking about going after Boxer when she’s not running against her.”
The PPIC poll, he said, will reaffirm the Poizner strategy of waiting and waiting and waiting — against the outcry of supporters and pundits alike — until voters “started to focus on the race.”
“It’ll show that Meg really had a glass jaw; she ran up the score with $50 million, but now when it matters, has lost the momentum.”