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Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has rebuilt a 24-point lead over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in the Republican gubernatorial primary, according to results of the latest University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll.

With less than two weeks until the June 8 election, Whitman leads Poizner 53 percent to 29 percent. The results were released this afternoon by research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, which conducted the poll for the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Times.

After Whitman had jumped to a roughly 50-point lead earlier this year following months of television advertising, Poizner clawed back to within 9 points in a Public Policy Institute of California survey taken May 9-16. The USC/Times results confirm private polls that had shown Whitman widening her lead in the last two weeks.

Poll analyst Dan Schnur, director of USC's Unruh Institute for Politics, said that Whitman regained a double-digit advantage by emphasizing more conservative positions and focusing less on positioning herself for the general election. But that came at a cost, given that she now trails Democrat Jerry Brown in a head-to-head matchup, 44-38.

"No question it strengthened her position for the primary, but it has caused her to lose support among moderates and create some slippage in her position for the general election," Schnur said.

The poll also found that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has surged to a 15-point lead, 38-23, over former Rep. Tom Campbell in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, trails in third place with 16 percent among those polled.

Campbell led the race for most of the year, but Fiorina stepped up her television advertising this month, drawing upon her sizable financial advantage over Campbell and DeVore. Fiorina so far has loaned her campaign $5.5 million, while outside conservative groups have aired ads and sent mailers attacking Campbell for supporting some tax hikes in the past.

"It looks like those last few checks she wrote have really paid off," Schnur said.

Despite Fiorina's lead among Republicans, incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer still maintains an advantage over Fiorina in a hypothetical matchup, 44-38 percent. But the poll found that Campbell would beat Boxer, 45-38.

Schnur noted that Boxer is very vulnerable this year. The poll found that 49 percent of voters said they prefer to vote for someone other than the three-term senator, compared to 34 percent who said they wanted to re-elect her. Yet 54 percent of voters said they also prefer to vote for someone who will mostly support President Obama's policies.

Based on campaign finance reports released this week, Campbell had conserved his money for the final stretch with nearly $1 million in cash on hand as of May 19. He is using that money to air television ads in targeted markets around the state, although he has less cash at his disposal than Fiorina.

Whitman has spent $71 million of her personal fortune on her campaign so far, while Poizner has spent $24 million of his own money.

The survey of 1,506 registered voters was conducted May 19-26.

Update (6:35 p.m.):
Whitman's expenditure total was updated to reflect that she reported today giving herself an additional $3 million.


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