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eMeg to Calbuzz: Big Mo Moving Back to Me

May21

In a stunning and sudden display of accessibility, Republican front-runner Meg Whitman sat down for a 10-minute interview with Calbuzz Thursday, saying she can “feel the momentum” moving back to her campaign for governor despite a new poll showing the race in single digits.

eMeg sat on the edge of a stage in the auditorium of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where she had just held a town hall meeting with about 75 local residents, and answered questions about the budget, immigration, offshore drilling, taxes and the campaign: fueled by Red Bull and uncertain when we’d get another chance at her, we were talking as fast as we could.

Asked about the new PPIC poll, which shows that GOP rival Steve Poizner has slashed her once massive lead, Whitman laughed at our suggestion that she’s spent an awful lot of dough for a nine-point edge:

“So you’re nine points up – you think you got your money’s worth for $68 million?” Calbuzz asked.

“Well. We are ahead and I knew the polls would close and I can feel the momentum beginning to shift back my way on the campaign trail…”

eMeg’s reaction reflects the campaign’s internal view that, after the race with Poizner got extremely close about 10 days ago, she’s since been pulling back ahead. Strategists say that the 38-29% edge that PPIC pollster Mark Baldassare reported Wednesday that she holds over Poizner is a snapshot of a dynamic situation, and that their latest TV ads pushing back  on attacks by the Commish already have re-established a double digit lead.

“There’ve been a lot of attacks, a lot of stuff,” the candidate said, “but I think I feel the momentum coming back.”

At the end of the interview, our South Central Coast Bureau Chief solemnly presented eMeg with a limited edition copy of the world-famous Calbuzz button, featuring the red-haired guy with his finger in the socket. Closely examining the rare objet d’art, she immediately demonstrated  the financial savvy and eye for the main chance that shaped her career as a successful business executive:

“ I wonder what this would go for on eBay?” she said. “Maybe if you signed it? You sign it, and we’ll put it up on eBay and…put the money in the campaign coffers.”

Now that we got the horse race stuff out of the way, Calbuzz will publish the wonky, issue stuff from our eMeg interview tomorrow, including a few surprises. The post goes up at 12:01 a.m. for those who just can’t wait until morning.

(PS: David K. Yamamoto took that photo for the Ventura County Star, at an event in Camarillo before eMeg’s appearance in Santa Barbara).

Beginning of the end or end of the beginning? The other day we bashed a poll, done by M4 Strategies and sponsored by Joel Fox’s Small Business Action Committee, that showed Meg Whitman 17 points ahead of Steve Poizner, saying the thing would be debunked  if the new PPIC survey showed the Commish within single digits of eMeg.

Lo and behold , PPIC showed exactly that but, far from slinking into his cave, the estimable Fox promptly doubled down on his survey.

Echoing arguments feverishly made by Whitman strategist Mike Murphy, Fox argues the  timing, sample size, margin and results of his SBAC/M4 survey have it all over that produced by polling guru Mark Baldassare.

SBAC/M4 may be measuring a momentum shift in the race.

What strengthens the momentum argument are the daily returns gathered by the M4 poll. Chris St. Hilaire, who oversees the poll for M4 Strategies, points out that Whitman gained strength over the course of the poll. The first day of the poll, Whitman’s lead was the same as what PPIC had at 9-percent. Her lead grew a couple of points the next day and after the two day layoff, when the poll resumed on Sunday, May 16, she gained an additional 5-percent.

We’re not going to get all technical here, but a few points: the number of completed surveys on the second (175) and third (151) night of calling was considerably lower than the first night (274). Moreover, it’s unlikely that each night was its own random sample of the whole GOP voter file. And even if it was, the margins of error for each night individually would be very large.

PPIC didn’t push voters for how they were leaning; M4 did. Meg’s margin in the M4 survey among those who said they were “definitely” voting for her: 9%. That wasn’t good spin, however, so the only number put out was the number that included those who said they would “probably vote” for each candidate and those “leaning” for each contender. That’s where they got the 49-32% with just 17% undecided.

There’s also some problems with the distribution of the sample in the M4 survey. Just a few examples: too few voters in the Central Valley and Inland Empire; too many in the North Coast/Sierra and Bay Area counties.

The M4 poll also found Tom Campbell still ahead of Carly Fiorina (33-28%)  in the U.S. Senate race — another discrepancy with PPIC which had Fiorina with a slight lead.

We could go on, but suffice it to say there are valid reasons why it makes sense to take partisan polls with a grain of salt. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong. In fact, Whitman may indeed have moved up since PPIC finished its survey on Sunday. We’re hearing that from Democratic pollsters, too. But we can bank on the non-partisan, open-source polls and the others — well, you gotta be careful how you use ‘em. (We do give major props to Fox’s pollsters, however, for answering every question we put to them.)

Dudley doomed? Given the volatile political atmosphere of 2010 , reflected most recently by Tuesday’s special elections in Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, making any bets on California’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate is a fool’s errand.

In fact, we could make the case for any of the entrants in the three-way brawl — not least of whom is Chuck DeVore, the only guy who’s showing any movement and who just got a big fist bump from conservative blogstar Erick Erickson calling on Hurricane Carly Fiorina to quit the race  in favor of the Big Fella.

If some Second Amendment purist held a gun to our head, however, we’d have to put our money down on Fiorina, the only one who appears to have enough cash for a TV blitz that could crack the race open in the stretch. Besides the first-I-look-at-the-purse factor, her neck-and-neck rival Tom Campbell looks in danger of being pecked to death by ducks, as he ducks and covers factional attacks from the hard right wing of the GOP, on issues from abortion to taxes.

Latest dis comes from the National Rifle Association, which did a statewide postcard mailing urging its members to vote against Campbell. Sez the By God LAT politics blog:

The bright orange postcard, which went out over the weekend, faults Campbell for favoring gun show regulations, a waiting period for handgun purchases and restrictions on the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons.

As a matter of campaign messaging, we’re not sure what’s worse, that Campbell is trying to explain his positions on these issues with actual facts, complexity and nuance, or that he’s doing it via email. We do know that the desert of California politics is littered with the bleached white bones of those who got blasted by the NRA (see Bradley, Governor Tom).

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Laissez les bons temps rouler!


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