The Next Governor Is... Ummm...

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Talk about a poll that only prompts more speculation.

Today's Field Poll on the potential matchups of Democrats and Republicans for next year's race for governor is proof positive that this race is wide open. An awful lot of presumed and possible candidates, but anyone's guess as to how it will all shake out.

Let's start with the biggest puzzle, the race for the Democratic nomination. No surprise that should she run, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the front runner by more than a 2-1 margin.

But no one knows whether she will step out of her powerful new role on Capitol Hill to wade into the mess that exists at the state Capitol. Should she take a pass, Attorney General Jerry Brown and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are next in line with those surveyed by Field.

(By the way, Field found that a full 25% of all registered voters said they have "no opinion" of Brown. No opinion of Jerry Brown? Are you kidding?)

The two other Dems who are already most visibly stumping for the job, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, appear to have their work cut out for them. Most notable in today's numbers is how Newsom's current support is largely confined to northern California -- where he's actually just behind Brown in a "no DiFi scenario" primary. Trouble is, more of California's voters are down south, where Villaraigosa is well-known, especially after cruising to a second term at the polls this week.

On the Republican side, the new poll is somewhat surprising for those who have been focused just on the two wealthy candidates -- newcomer (and former eBay CEO) Meg Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. The poll shows former congressman/business school dean/state legislator/budget czar Tom Campbell just trailing Whitman. Poizner,says the poll, has less than half the support level of Campbell and a third of that of Whitman.

The big caveat: a full 54% of those surveyed said they are undecided in the GOP race, which means these numbers are probably soft.

But this poll confirms that the race has an awful lot of twists and turns to go, and the first one comes down to a simple question about the state's senior senator in Washington: is she... or isn't she?

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About John Myers

John Myers is Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED Public Radio and "The California Report," heard daily on 23 public radio stations across the Golden State.

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