Despite Arnold Schwarzenegger's bad approval ratings, a political newcomer leading the Republican field, and a Democrat who has held multiple high-level state offices running against her, there's a good chance California's next governor will be a Republican.
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the aforementioned Republican newcomer, holds a slight edge over Democrat Jerry Brown in a new LA Times/USC poll, with 44% to Brown's 41%.
This is a bit surprising given that Schwarzenegger, the state's current Republican governor, logged a Bush-esque 25% approval rating; Brown, who now serves as California's attorney general, has been a fixture of California politics for decades, first as the state's post-Watergate governor in the 1970s, then as Democratic party chairman, then as a presidential candidate in 1992, then as mayor of Oakland, and now as AG since 2006; and Whitman herself has never run for office before.
How has she done this? By spending tons of her own money, and by being a generally inoffensive candidate with business experience when the state's budget outlook is terrible.
As for the money: Whitman is a billionaire, and apparently she's not ashamed of this. Whitman donated $39 million to her own campaign, which had spent a massive $26.8 million between Jan. 1 and March 17, largely on TV ads pumping up Whitman and attacking her nearest GOP challenger, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. The anti-Poizner ads smugly question his fiscal-conservative credibility--a line of attack that would resonate with Republican primary voters, but wouldn't turn off moderate independents.