Republican Meg Whitman’s week just got worse with the release of a new poll by Reuters/Ipsos that now shows her seven points behind her Democratic challenger Jerry Brown in the California governor’s race. The poll is of 400 “likely voters” from the state of California. The “likely voter” model generally favors Republicans, so for Whitman this news is twice as bad.
The poll is the first major survey to be released since Whitman’s former maid, Nancy Diaz Santillan, made a long list of allegations against Whitman. Santillan claimed that Whitman kept her employed as a maid for a nine years even though she knew Santillan was an undocumented immigrant. In addition, Santillan alleged that Whitman emotionally abused her and fired her as she began her campaign for governor. Whitman denied that she knew Santillan was an undocumented worker until she fired her. However, various pieces of evidence have emerged which suggest the Whitman family knew of Santillan’s immigration status. Whitman has advocated a “get tough” approach on the employers of undocumented immigrants, so the story seems to reek of hypocrisy for her. Previous polls had Whitman tied or even in the lead against Brown as a result of a massive ad campaign she financed with her own dollars. The gains from those ads now appear to have disappeared, with Brown taking a commanding lead.
Even worse for Republicans is a possible cross-effect the Whitman story is having on United States Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. Fiorina is the Republican nominee challenging Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a longtime liberal icon of the Senate. The same poll from Reuters/Ipsos now has Boxer with a four-point advantage over Fiorina among likely voters. While Fiorina and Whitman are two separate individuals, the similarities between the two are striking. Both are former businesswomen who now have ventured into politics as fiscal conservatives. Both have spent millions from their own bank accounts to finance their campaigns. As a result, it is possible that California voters are lumping the two women together, and that the damage to Whitman is also hurting Fiorina.
The results in the upcoming election in California may be the most important for any state. As the most populous state in the country, the election within the state will decide which party controls 53 seats in the House of Representatives. Whichever party controls the governorship will have the upper hand in deciding how the district lines are drawn in the upcoming years. Anyone familiar with politics knows that the practice of gerrymandering can greatly influence how many seats each party is able to win in a given state. Finally, the Senate race between Boxer and Whitman is considered an essential “hold” for Democrats as they try to maintain their majority in the Senate.