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Trailing in the polls, Meg Whitman scorns the pollsters

October 28, 2010 |  2:03 pm

The final days of the gubernatorial campaign have not been good ones for Republican Meg Whitman. On Sunday, an L.A. Times/USC poll showed her trailing Jerry Brown by 13 percentage points. Tuesday, she stumbled in an appearance with Jerry Brown in Long Beach when Matt Lauer asked both candidates to take their negative ads off the air. Whitman refused and was jeered by the crowd. On Thursday, a new Field Poll showed Whitman 10 points behind Brown. Last month, the same poll had the race tied.

With time running out on her $141-million investment, Whitman has taken to going on the offensive, blaming bad polling while expressing confidence that the race for governor remains close.

In San Diego on Wednesday, Whitman dismissed the recent Los Angeles Times/USC survey as “bunk.” In Riverside, she went further. “Do not be confused by the L.A. Times poll,” she said, to applause. “What’s up with that? Every year, they do a poll about a week out from the election that is designed to show the candidate they’ve endorsed is winning.”

Recent history does not bear that out, however. In 2003, The Times did not endorse Schwarzenegger during the recall. But a Times poll shortly before the October election showed Schwarzenegger ahead of Democrat Cruz Bustamante.

Since 1994, when The Times began endorsing candidates for governor, the Times Poll has indeed shown the candidate endorsed by the paper ahead in the polls. But that's because the candidate endorsed by The Times has won every governor's race since 1994 with the exception of the 2003 recall. The poll showed Pete Wilson ahead of Kathleen Brown in 1994, Gray Davis ahead of Dan Lungren in 1998 and Bill Simon in 2002; and Schawrzenegger ahead of Phil Angelides in 2006. All were endorsed by The Times.

Whitman made her attack on the polls more inclusive Thursday in the wake of the Field Poll release. She cited "public polls" that paint a distorted picture of the governor's race.

In a memo sent to reporters Thursday, Whitman adviser Mike Murphy insisted the race was still up for grabs. "As of last night, in two separate tracking polls conducted over the last 72 hours, the race is now tied in one poll and Meg leads by +1 in the other. Among early voters who say they have already cast their ballots, Meg Whitman is leading by 3 points."

Only five more days until we find out whose numbers are right.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento