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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

There are just two weeks left until the California election. And so congratulations to all of us for making it this far with our sanity intact.

We've survived a record onslaught of advertising and messages. And while we're not necessarily better for the experience, at least we know it's almost over.

For political junkies, the past week has included one pretty surprising plot twist.

On the Republican side of the race for governor, it turns out there is a real contest going on.

Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have already spent more than $100 million trying to get inside our heads.

That's an astounding amount of cash for a primary election campaign, even in a state as large and as money intensive as California.

Knowing that a lot of the checks were written by the candidates themselves makes the point even more staggering.

Both Republicans are investing big chunks of their personal fortunes into trying to become governor. A job that most of us would never want.

And they're not done yet.

Ordinarily, a candidate like Whitman with a nine-point lead two weeks out would be feeling pretty good about her investment.

But it's Poizner who's enjoying the numbers game right now. That nine-point gap looks a lot better than the 50 points he trailed Whitman by just a couple of months ago.

He was written off by just about every pundit as a non-starter.

But they've both been on the airwaves and out across the Internet trying to convince voters that they are the more conservative candidate.

That's a helpful identity in a Republican primary.

At this point, though, about a third of Republicans don't really know who to believe.

They've seen Arnold Schwarzenegger turn out to be a lot more liberal than they hoped – although you always had to wonder what conservatives were smoking to buy so fully into the Schwarzenegger myth.

With so many Republicans undecided -- and open for grabs –the ad saturation on TV and radio should be intense for the final two weeks.

Then, either Whitman or Poizner will enter a new phase in their evolution – the one where they try to soften the conservative cred they just spent so money much trying to harden.

California voters may be in a foul mood, about the economy and taxes and politicians in general.

But they hang out to the center and left of the image that Whitman and Poizner are selling this week.

Democrats and independents hold a big edge in registration. President Obama still enjoys a strongly positive job approval rating.

He gets a pass for the stumbles in Washington, despite the shouting at tea party rallies.

The president comes back out our way this week, trying to save Sen. Barbara Boxer from the anti-incumbent wave. He'll speak at a Boxer fundraiser in the Bay Area, and probably offer encouraging words to the Democrats.

We haven't heard too much yet from their side of the race for governor.

Jerry Brown is watching and waiting, hoarding his cash until Whitman and Poizner decided who's still in the game.

After June 8 we'll to hear plenty from Brown, and from the Republicans about his last stint as governor, in the 1970's and 80's.

You can stop by the LA Observed page at KCRW.org and tell us what you think of the races so far.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

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