Reporter's question catches Poizner off guard

May 5, 2010 8:07:56 PM PDT
On the Republican side of California's governor's race, state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner is closing the gap with rival Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO. That is according to Poizner's research.

He was eager to talk about the latest polling numbers. However, Poizner had a much harder time with a question that you wouldn't think would stump him, but it did.

"Well, Meg Whitman's numbers are plummeting," said Poizner.

Poizner says a poll done just after Sunday's debate shows he has closed a huge gap on Whitman. The numbers show a 10-point spread, 38 to 28 percent compared to last February, when the same pollster found Whitman ahead by nearly 50 points.

"There's also other polls floating around there that also confirm that this race is somewhere between 10 points difference and single digits," said Poizner.

Whitman's camp says it is in the middle of conducting a new poll. Campaign strategist Mike Murphy told reporters, "We have always expected the polls to be close. We're in debate over whether Steve Poizner will lose huge... or a little closer."

The Whitman campaign released a new television ad Wednesday attacking Poizner. She also got some help from Poizner himself, when he stumbled over a question about one of the measures that will be on the same ballot this June.

"Which one? Proposition 16...which is?" asked Poizner.

It's the proposition being pushed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. It would add a new requirement that communities get a two-thirds vote before they could break away from the utility and buy power from some other source.

"We're researching both sides of that issue. I think there are some significant pluses and minuses...we're still looking at it before I make a final decision on it," Poizner

ABC7 asked what would be a significant plus for a measure that makes it harder for communities to compete with the power company.

"We'll analyze it more carefully. There's pluses and minuses and some of the pluses might be to increase the level of competition, some of the minuses might be that this is just helping some of the big utilities. There's pluses and minuses and we're looking at it closely," said Poizner.

When asked how it could increase competition, he said "We're looking at it."

If it appears Poizner is unprepared on this ballot issue, he's not alone. Meg Whitman gave a response during Sunday's debate to another question about which measure she thought should be re-examined.

Someone asked, "Do you have one that should be re-examined that's on the books?" and Whitman replied, "Not right now, no."

"That was a deer in the headlight moment," said ABC7 Republican political consultant Whalen.

Whalen is not surprised by the candidate's lack of knowledge on measures that will be on the same ballot as those candidates.

"And they're very focused on the issues that they think are moving voters, so frankly the rest of the ballot, 'Ballot be damned, I want to focus on what's going to get me the votes,'" says Whalen.

Whalen told ABC7 Poizner's campaign ran their poll right after Sunday's debate, because they felt Poizner had won and they wanted to measure that momentum. He says the Whitman campaign didn't run out and conduct a poll right after the debate, for the very same reason.


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