05/29/2010 12:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Meg Whitman's Whoppers

Billionaire Meg Whitman has expanded that double-digit lead I first reported a week ago that she had over Steve Poizner in their hard-fought battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in California. But my forecast about her spending in trying to hold on to a primary she and her people said they'd had in the bag for months is looking off.

I said she would spend $85 million. But it turns out that she had already spent well over $80 million as of May 19th. Now, with a heavy burst of TV advertising and mailers being sent all over the state, it looks like she will spend around $90 million in the Republican primary.

Whitman is slamming conservative Steve Poizner as a closet liberal.

Since she had vowed to spend $150 million total for the primary and the general election -- assuming she made it to the general election -- it is very safe to say that she is way off her plan with $90 million in spending to try to secure a primary victory.

Does all this spending and advertising backfire at a certain point? Absolutely.

Not that she is out of the woods in the primary, mind you. Poizner is going to spend more of his money. And to the extent that he unmuddies the waters on illegal immigration (Whitman has distorted both her position and Poizner's), making it clear that he supports the Arizona law and she does not, counters the effective advertising casting him as a "closet liberal," and throws in a surprise here and there, the primary is still in play.

That's why she rolled out Newt Gingrich this week as another famous right-wing endorser, joining Dick Cheney and Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner to take on Barack Obama in 2012, who came up with the idea for Whitman to run for governor in the first place. Whitman is using Cheney and Gingrich in robocalls to Republican voters. Romney is in a TV ad with Condi Rice, one of the architects of the Iraq War, and a business lobbyist who runs something called the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. So much for the notion of Whitman being a centrist.

Her campaign's evident concern is well justified because there is always, let's say, the Whitman mistake factor. We saw it again Friday, when she falsely claimed in an interview with Politico that she doesn't have a border fence in her advertising. She does. In fact, it's in a TV ad that I am told she demanded and helped write herself. That's the curious 60-second spot in which she speaks defensively to camera about how tough politics is.

It's also in her voluminous mailers featuring Prop 187 champion Pete Wilson, the former governor who chairs her campaign.

Whitman made the claim twice in the interview, and had to be corrected by the designated flak catcher of the campaign, press secretary Sarah Pompei.

Whitman also falsely claimed that Poizner hadn't been to the border till four weeks ago.

You can see that border fence she repeatedly claimed isn't in any of her advertising right here, in this ad which she narrates throughout herself.

Whitman repeatedly falsely claimed that there are no border fences in her advertising. Here's a border fence.

Incidentally, Whitman also falsely claimed on Friday that she has always been against offshore oil drilling. I've written about this several times before. Whitman actually supported offshore oil drilling until she put out her ballyhooed policy booklet just two months ago.

But this lack of veracity should be no surprise with regard to this former Goldman Sachs board member who had to resign in the wake of her inside trading. Whitman, who has flip-flopped on the issues repeatedly in this campaign, and couldn't say how often she'd even bothered to vote, lied in her very first TV ad about how long she's lived in California.

She said she'd lived here for 30 years. (Something which she had also been saying in her stump speeches.) But as I revealed here on the Huffington Post, when she became national co-chair of the Republican presidential campaign in 2008, she said she'd lived in California for less than 20 years.

Exactly how long has Whitman lived in the state whose governorship she is trying to purchase? She won't say.

Meanwhile, a new survey by Public Policy Polling has Jerry Brown with a big lead over Whitman and Poizner in the California governor's race, 48% to 36% over Whitman and 48% to 32% over Poizner. Both Whitman and Poizner have massive deficits in favorable vs. unfavorable ratings.

Poizner is all in on illegal immigration.

Brown has barely spent a dime. The Democratic candidate for governor of California who effectively won the June primary by clearing the Democratic field last fall, has nearly $21 million in his campaign warchest.

Brown raised close to $7 million in the last two months.

He spent about a quarter of a million during that period while the two Republicans vying for the opportunity, as it were, to run against him spent tens of millions of dollars attacking each other and establishing their right-wing bona fides.

And some major issues are turning very much Brown's way. As you might suppose, the Gulf oil disaster -- now the biggest oil spill in American history, eclipsing even the infamous Exxon Valdez -- has more than reversed a previously growing trend of acceptance of energy production and economic development at all costs.

The new Gallup Poll shows a big reversal in national attitudes since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform on April 20th.

Between March and today, with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill intervening, Americans' preferences for prioritizing between environmental protection and energy production have shifted from a somewhat pro-energy production at all costs stance to an even stronger pro-environment stance.

Now, the majority favor environmental protection, by 55% to 39% -- the second-largest percentage (behind the 58% in 2007) favoring the environment in the 10-year history of the question.

Democrats had already put more emphasis on environmental protection than on energy production in March, but that position has gained strength among Democrats today. Independents' views have flipped from a majority pro-energy stance in March to a majority pro-environment one today. In contrast, Republicans' opinions have not changed since the oil spill occurred; they continue to prioritize energy production over environmental protection by a 2-to-1 margin.

Americans' shift toward a more pro-environment point of view is also evident in a separate trade-off question, which pits environmental protection against economic growth. After the oil spill, the balance of opinion tips toward the environment by seven points, 50% to 43%. Just over two months ago, Americans favored economic growth by a 15-point margin, 53% to 38%.

Note that the shift is entirely amongst independents and Democrats. The Republican Party continues to hug the far right rail on the "Drill, baby, drill" issue.

Jerry Brown says he has an "insider's knowledge and an outsider's mind."

What does this mean, incidentally, in the California governor's race?

Well, it explains why Whitman lied on Friday about supposedly always opposing offshore oil drilling.

Jerry Brown has been a consistent, decades-long opponent of new offshore oil drilling. He fought to create the California Coastal Commission, a unique governmental body that balances legitimate economic development needs with the imperative to protect the globally unique resource that is California's coast.

In contrast, both Republicans vying for the party nomination to attempt to succeed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have backed new offshore oil drilling moves.

Whitman was a staunch backer of new offshore oil drilling as national co-chair of the McCain/Palin campaign in 2008, her only major role in public affairs prior to starting her run for the governorship. She fully supported Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's famed chant: "Drill, baby, drill!"

Whitman also backed offshore oil drilling in her gubernatorial campaign, citing the wonders of new drilling technology. More recently, though, she says she is against it.

Whitman and Poizner both want to do away with California's landmark climate change program, a signature achievement of the Schwarzenegger years. (Whitman had said that she wanted a one-year suspension; more recently, she's said she wants to do away with it altogether.) In contrast, Brown has aggressively defended the program in court as attorney general.

Whitman herself isn't the only one in her campaign with a veracity problem. It extends to her top handlers.

Political hired guns can say the darned things, can't they?

Evidently counting on the amnesia, or perhaps just lack of knowledge, of California reporters. Whitman's chief strategist Mike Murphy, during the course early in the week of his latest attempt to spin his client's inevitability in the hard-fought Republican gubernatorial primary, came up with a real howler.

"Everyone's kind of tired of the Sacramento political system that Jerry Brown is kind of the alpha male dog of," he opined.

That would be, naturally, why Whitman is herself surrounded by a large retinue of consultants and lobbyists, one supposes, and even features a Sacramento lobbyist in her TV and radio advertising.

Whitman and Poizner want to terminate the landmark greenhouse gas reduction program authorized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Or why the Whitman campaign used Sacramento insiders to try and clear the Republican primary field for her.

Or why the Whitman campaign pushed -- unsuccessfully, as it happens -- to use the Sacramento-based Chamber of Commerce as its vehicle for anti-Brown attack TV advertising, violating the law for non-profit organizations.

Or why Attorney General Brown himself, far from being a Sacramento insider, runs the state Department of Justice out of his Oakland office and spends very little time in the capital.

Or why Brown is a famous maverick of many years' standing, having been a registered independent himself as the mayor of gritty Oakland.

But, ironic as all that is, the real irony concerns Murphy himself.

No one in recent memory in California politics fused the political consultant and lobbyist roles as much as Murphy himself did after Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected.

In other words, to quote himself, Murphy set out to make himself "the alpha male dog" of the "Sacramento political system."

On the day of Schwarzenegger's inauguration in November 2003, Murphy swiftly moved to make himself the principal influence peddler in Sacramento. He swiftly set up an office of his D.C. Navigators lobbying and consulting firm in Sacramento, and created a web site which screamed access to Schwarzenegger.

Murphy was so aggressive in marketing his access to Schwarzenegger that it created a major embarrassment for the governor within months, with the web site having to be dramatically altered.

But the behavior continued, and I had to reveal that Murphy was using Schwarzenegger's image as a logo on all his proposals to prospective corporate clients.

As someone with no experience in public affairs prior to being talked into running for governor by her business mentor, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, Whitman is totally dependent on a coterie of lobbyists and consultants which Murphy personifies. She even features a lobbyist in her TV and radio advertising.

There's a great deal here, and I'll get to it if Whitman does survive the Republican primary.

Speaking of which, Poizner has some new advertising in the form of first a radio ad and now a TV ad again featuring California conservative icon Congressman Tom McClintock.

California conservative icon Congressman Tom McClintock says it's time for a governor "from the Republican wing of the Republican Party" and slams Whitman for opposing the Arizona immigration law.

In the TV ad, which is being added to McClintock's statewide rotation and which you can watch here, McClintock talks up the "key difference" between Poizner and Whitman on illegal immigration, notably the Arizona law, and says its time for "a governor from the Republican wing of the Republican Party."

Poizner started sliding back in the polls when he took a very effective McClintock ad vouching for his conservative bona fides off the air as Whitman was slamming him as "Just another Sacramento liberal politician."

Can McClintock turn things back again for Poizner with all those conservative Republican base voters likely to participate in what may be a low turnout primary? We'll see.

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ...