The press is all over the latest Field Poll, which shows Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman in a dead heat. And it's no surprise that, thanks to a campaign that thus far has been almost entirely negative, voters aren't particularly thrilled with either candidate.
But I think there's some good news for Jerry Brown here. Whitman has spent more than $90 million so far, and the voters like her less than they did six months ago. After all that money, some of which has gone for blistering attacks on Brown, Whitman is still not ahead. And it's hard to see what she can do now to move the needle.
Moreover, it looks like the attack ads on Whitman by Brown’s labor allies — including California Working Families 2010 — have had their intended effect: to increase Whitman’s negatives and keep her from pulling away from Brown during the summer, before he can afford to put his own ads on TV.
Meanwhile, Brown’s favorability is only marginally changed from March. It’s 42-40% favorable today, compared to 41-37% favorable before. (Of course, Brown’s favorable was 50-25% back in March of 2009, but that was when he was just the new Attorney General and not a candidate for governor with rivals.)
At some point, Jerry's got to start seriously campaigning, and he's got a lot of work to do. He has to define himself to younger voters, who know a lot more about Ebay than about Brown's tenure as governor, which was generally pretty good. He has to remind Latinos of how awful Whitman is on immigration. He's got to spend some money.
But at this point, there's hardly a voter in California (at least, not one with a TV set) who hasn't seen multiple Whitman ads, defining her as a successful business person and attacking Brown as a failed politician. Those are powerful messages. The ads have been well produced, well targeted and should have been effective. And they haven't gotten her over the halfway point yet -- even against an opponent who is vulnerable to attack and hasn't campaigned much at all.
Both candidates seem to be holding the party loyalists -- the vast majority of the Republicans like Meg, the vast majority of the Democrats like Jerry. And there are more Democrats than Republicans. The independents aren't breaking Meg's way, either -- she's only slightly ahead, not enough to make up the difference.
Now if Brown can just get his people to care enough to go to the polls. ...