Meg Whitman

In a brief stop in Santa Barbara, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman shrugged off a new poll showing her once massive lead in the campaign for the Republican nomination for governor has shrunk to single digits, saying she can “feel the momentum” moving back to her.

Whitman’s comments about the campaign came after a town hall meeting at the Museum of Natural History, where she met with about 75 local residents to discuss her proposal for creating jobs, cutting state government spending, and improving K-12 schools.

Having spent $68 million of her own money on television advertising, Whitman has been dominating the GOP race, leading state Insurance Commissioner Poizner by as much as 50 points a month ago. But a new statewide poll, released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), showed that Poizner has closed the gap to nine points, with Whitman leading 38 percent-to-29 percent, after he has spent about $24 million of his personal fortune on hard-hitting ads attacking his rival on immigration and her ties to the scandal-tainted investment bank Goldman Sachs.

In her first public statements about the new PPIC poll, Whitman said she believes the dynamic has already turned around, after her campaign began airing a new 60-second spot that pushes back hard at each of Poizner’s attack lines.

“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,” she said in a brief interview.

Whitman’s comments reflect the privately expressed view of her campaign strategists that although the race got extremely close about 10 days ago, she’s since been pulling back ahead. They believe that the 38 percent-to-29 percent edge that PPIC pollster Mark Baldassare just reported her holding over Poizner is a snapshot of a very dynamic situation, and that their latest TV ads pushing back hard on attacks by the Commish already have built her lead back to double digits.

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


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