Friday, October 9, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | A new Field Poll shows California Attorney General Jerry Brown enjoys a huge lead in next year’s race for governor, even before he’s declared himself a candidate and despite months of campaigning by his Democratic rival and three Republicans vying for their party’s nomination.

The poll released Thursday found that both Mr. Brown, the former governor who ran three times for president and fellow Democrat Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, would fare well against any of the three Republicans in the race.

It found that half of Republican voters had yet to make up their minds in the contest between former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, former Rep. Tom Campbell and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.

Among Democrats, Mr. Brown has a comfortable 20-point lead over Mr. Newsom with a quarter of voters undecided. Sen. Dianne Feinstein would trounce either if she opted to get into the race, the poll found.

The poll underscores the struggles of Mr. Newsom’s campaign. He trailed Mr. Brown nearly 7-to-1 in fundraising during the first half of the year, even before Mr. Brown announced an exploratory committee last week that will allow him to collect larger campaign donations.

Mr. Newsom has been campaigning statewide for months as he tries to move beyond his image as the mayor who opened his city to gay marriage. Mr. Brown has repeatedly hinted at seeking the office he held from 1975 to 1983, but has so far remained coy.

Thursday’s Field Poll was based on 1,005 interviews with registered voters conducted by phone from Sept. 18 to Oct. 5. It has a sampling error of 3.2 percentage points for all voters, and a sampling error of 4.5 percentage points for the smaller samples of Democrats and Republicans.

The poll found that 49 percent of Republican voters are not ready to favor a particular candidate, unsurprising with the election so far away. The primary is in June.

Among those who do have a preference, Ms. Whitman and Mr. Campbell were in a virtual tie, at 22 percent and 20 percent respectively. Mr. Poizner trailed with just 9 percent.

Although it is early, the poll suggests that any of the three Republicans would have a tough time against a Democratic opponent in the general election.

Despite his lackluster fundraising numbers to date, even Mr. Newsom has leads of 5 percent to 9 percent against any of the Republican candidates in the traditionally Democratic state.

Still, Mr. Brown and Mr. Newsom do not come close to having Mrs. Feinstein’s appeal, according to the poll: 40 percent of Democrats said they would back the state’s senior senator if she were to jump in, compared with 27 percent for Mr. Brown and 16 percent for Mr. Newsom.

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