Meg Whitman Wins GOP Nod In California

Jerod Harris

California Republican voters tonight nominated former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman to challenge Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) to become the state’s next governor. The Silicon Valley executive with no elected political experience beat Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner after an expensive and nasty battle.

Whitman earned 65 percent to Poizner’s 26 percent with 9 of precincts reporting as the Associated Press and MSNBC called the race. Whitman spent a whopping $81 million — nearly all of that her own — to boost her name recognition and to outline her stance on immigration and other hot button issues in the Golden State. Poizner, who ran in a field of dozens in the 2003 recall election won by Arnold Schwarzenegger, spent $24 million of his own money.

The Whitman-as-winner outcome was so expected that a reporter caught her prepared victory speech on a Teleprompter — hours before the polls had closed.The Chronicle reports the Teleprompter included this phrase:

“Thank you so much … What a great night! This victory is yours! I just received a very gracious phone call from Steve Poizner conceding the race.”

In her actual victory speech, Whitman said she had a message for Democrats that she and GOP Senate nominee Carly Fiorina are, “your worst nightmare: two business women from the real world.”

Whitman raised her political profile as an advisor to Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008, and is considered to be a moderate Republican. Party officials say her lack of a voting record will help, especially against Brown because he has such a long history and many voters still remember him as “Governor Moonbeam.”

It had once seemed like it would be a crowded Democratic field for Brown, who served as mayor of Oakland before being elected to the attorney general position. Several Democrats, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, dropped bids early in the race. (Newsom is poised to win the lieutenant governor nomination tonight.)

With the selection of a younger, female candidate with centrist credentials, cue the stories wondering if California could be in play for Republicans. After all, Schwarzenegger (R) has served two terms.

The TPM Poll Average of this race has Brown leading Whitman 44.4%-39.8%. Check it out: