The past month has not been kind to Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.
The first hit came when her GOP rival Steve Poizner and labor unions went after her ties to the investment firm Goldman Sachs just as federal investigators launched a criminal probe into the company.
Republicans around the country then started rallying around a controversial Arizona law targeting illegal immigrants at the same time Poizner claimed the tough-on-immigration mantle in the race.
The toll the attacks have taken on Whitman's once-unbeatable candidacy became clear Wednesday when the first major public poll to be released since March showed that Whitman's 50-point lead over Poizner among likely Republican primary voters had collapsed to just nine percentage points.
"Meg Whitman was a fresh candidate," said Thad Kousser, a University of California, San Diego, political science professor. "It's easy to fall in love with them, but it's easy to fall out of love with fresh candidates with every piece of new information you know about them."
The latest poll was conducted by the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California.
Its most telling number, said President Mark Baldassare, was the 31 percent of Republicans who remain undecided despite the record-shattering $100 million the two candidates have spent to get out their messages.
"It just speaks to the fact that the candidates have a lot of work ahead of them to be successful in June," Baldassare said.
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