- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

Republican pollsters say Bill Simon is poised for a stunning electoral upset by defeating Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis tomorrow.
One poll commissioned by Republicans has Mr. Simon ahead by three percentage points and other Republican surveys have him about even. Such results are starkly different from public polls and Democratic polls, which show him trailing Mr. Davis by seven to 11 percentage points.
"Tuesday promises to be a day of reckoning," a prominent California Republican strategist said privately. "If Simon wins, it's an upset."
But the same strategist warned that if Mr. Simon loses, "major Republican donors will be asking some very hard questions of these pollyanna-ish polls by Republicans."
The White House, which invested heavily in a Simon victory until concluding that he has run the worst campaign of any Republican in this election cycle, discounts the reliability of the partisan poll numbers, Republican sources say.
President Bush, who traveled to California several times to help raise money for Mr. Simon earlier this year, did not include the state in his exhausting nonstop campaign for Republican candidates over the last week of the campaign.
Some Republicans worry that they are being misled and say the Simon campaign has from the beginning switched pollsters in search of the best numbers a practice known as "pollster shopping."
"Those Republican tracking polls four years ago helped raise millions of dollars for what was supposed to be a photo finish in [Republican] Dan Lungren's race with Davis," said the Republican strategist, who asked not to be identified. "The California Republican Party contributed $500,000 in the final days for this squeaker, which was really a landslide for Davis. The money diverted for Lungren could have salvaged close legislative races in California."
Davis internal polling, meanwhile, claims double-digit leads for the Democrat.
"There are going to be a lot of California Republican pollsters and consultants out of work come Tuesday," said Davis spokesman Roger Salazar, who cited internal polling showing the Democrat ahead by 14 percentage points. "Anybody who believes this race is as close as [Republicans] say should check their medication."
Still, even Republican Party officials and campaign strategists in California who have been most critical of the Simon campaign say that the logic and election history point to defeat for any incumbent who, like Mr. Davis, is viewed unfavorably by more than half and favored for re-election by less than half of all likely voters in polls taken a few days before the election.
"It's going to be a stunning victory, given the steady undercurrent of criticism from our own Republicans and given the series of colossal missteps by the campaign and the way it has lurched forward through the summer and fall," said Timothy J. Morgan, a Republican National Committee member from California. "But the voters' moral outrage and fatigue with the ineptitude of the Davis administration have propelled them to seek an alternative and has turned others totally off."
Mr. Morgan noted that only 39 percent of likely voters in a poll taken on Thursday by Republican Kellyanne Conway said they would vote for Mr. Davis, and 42 percent said they would vote for Mr. Simon, with 8 percent undecided.
Many California voters apparently want to see both Mr. Davis and Mr. Simon lose. An unprecedented 57 percent have an unfavorable view of Mr. Davis, and 50 percent have a similarly dim view of Mr. Simon in the Conway poll.
A nightly tracking poll by Republican pollster Jan von Lohuizen showed Mr. Simon leading Mr. Davis by a minuscule 34.2 percent to 33.7 percent margin. Over three days, the rolling sample had Mr. Davis ahead by only 2.7 percentage points well within the error margin.
But even such public surveys as the California Field Poll, completed on Thursday with an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, had Mr. Davis ahead by only seven points, with 25 percent undecided highly unusual in the closing days of an election.
Republicans note that undecided voters usually break for the challenger. So even if many of the Field poll's undecided voters stay home on Tuesday, Mr. Simon can expect to pick up a majority of those who do turn out which could give him the one point overall victory that Mr. Morgan is predicting.

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