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Meg Whitman campaigns at Philippe's Restaurant

Republican governor candidate Meg Whitman, the billionaire former head of eBay, eats at Philippe's Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles.
Republican governor candidate Meg Whitman, the billionaire former head of eBay, eats at Philippe's Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman stopped by Philippe's Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday for what’s known in politics as some retail campaigning. It also provided a good photo opportunity of Whitman shaking hands with voters. Not all were enamored. Meg Whitman stepped inside one of the oldest and still hottest lunch spots in downtown Los Angeles. “Anyway, are we going to get a sandwich?” She passed many people to get to the order counter. “Hi, how are you. How are you doing?” It was mostly shaking hands, and not a lot of talk about the issues. The owner of Philippe's helped her order what everybody comes here for – the French dippped sandwich. “So double dip beef?" Whitman said. “Yeah, that’s a winner.” Richard Binder said. Binder offered to buy her lunch. She said no, and pulled out a 20 dollar bill. The stop may have been designed to make the billionaire businesswoman who preaches fiscal austerity seem more accessible to voters. One fellow eater wasn't convinced. “I think it’s disgusting – the money that Meg Whitman has plowed into this campaign," Nancy Lawrence said.

Lawrence spent years as a school teacher, then practiced law for a little while. She’s a Democrat who also doesn’t think much of one of Jerry Brown’s aides who was overheard on a voice mail describing Whitman as a whore. "It was inappropriate for the aide to say it really under any circumstances. But I don’t think you can hold Brown accountable for an aide mis-speaking," Lawrence said. She had more to say about Brown. "He’s always been a cuckoo bird in my opinion." she said chuckling. Lawrence recalled when Brown was governor the first time – when he wore long hair, drove a Dodge sedan and wouldn’t live in the governor’s mansion. But she said he’s better than the alternative. “I just don’t trust Meg Whitman. I don’t trust her ties to money," she said. "And I don’t know what’s making her run. I don’t know why she’s spending so much of her fortune. I don’t know what’s making her tick.” Whitman has said she wants to lead California to better times. After eating a few bites of her French dip and talking to campaign volunteers, the former head of eBay said she offers something better than Brown, a former governor and current attorney general. “A career politician verses someone who brings common sense from the private sector." Whitman’s shattered all spending records. She’s plunged 140 millions into her campaign, much of it into radio and TV advertising. For the final stretch, she said she’ll also ride a campaign bus that's newly painted with the words 'jobs are on the way.' “We’re going to spend the next 20 days making stops like this all over the state. I want to fight for every single vote in every corner of the state. So I think its actually going to be quite a lot of fun," Whitman said. Across many tables of people eating sandwiches and pie, Lisa Hirose of San Clemente sat watching the spectacle of a gubernatorial campaign stop. She is a Republican who likes Whitman. “I’m going to vote for her because I think she has the interest of business in mind, and overall interest of people out working and making money." As for Whitman's massive spending: "It’s her money and she can chose to spend it any way she wants," she said. Lisa Nebbit of Tustin is also a Republican. She took issue with Jerry Brown's aide who called Whitman a 'whore.' Even though he didn't say it, she said "I think it shows a sign of his character." Then there’s Jack Law of Riverside, another Republican. "I don’t like either one of them. I think she lies in her ads. I think he does too." Law said he'll make up his mind at the very end of the campaign. Law represents what polls show is upwards of a fifth of voters – voters both candidates need to win. They’re often called “impulse voters” who may be swayed by a strong comment – or gaffe – late in the campaign.