The Rasmussen poll indicates that 48 percent of likely voters support Meg Whitman, the Republican, and 40 percent back Jerry Brown, the state’s Democratic attorney general.
The poll’s 4 percent margin of error means the two could be tied at 44 percent, but Whitman strategists said it likely means their candidate’s taken a slight lead.
“It’s a very encouraging sign,” senior strategist Mike Murphy said. Some have criticized Rasmussen polls as favoring conservatives, but many consider them reliable.
Murphy acknowledged his first-time candidate faces hurdles convincing voters she’s better than Brown.
“You look at any undecided voter in this race, they’re still learning about Meg," Murphy said. "They’re some doubts.”
At the same time, he argued Brown’s 40-year record in politics will work against him.
“They can put a new label on the dog food, dogs don’t like it,” Murphy said.
The poll results surfaced as Whitman, a billionaire businesswoman who once ran eBay, campaigned at a rivet factory in the city of Industry.
“I will be the very best salesman for California business that you have ever seen. I will defend business, I will bring jobs back to this state,” she said.
Brown’s suggested that Whitman’s trying to buy the governor’s office, and criticized her ties to Wall Street.
He’s campaigned little this summer. That’s changing. Brown held two events this week - one in Santa Rosa Wednesday and another at a San Diego biodiesel company Thursday.
President Obama, who remains popular in California, also lent a hand this week. He sent out a fundraising letter on Brown’s behalf calling him a “champion on behalf of the people of California.”
Whitman strategist Murphy said any summer lull in campaigning is ending.
“Now it really begins.”
The election is Nov. 2.