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Why Whitman and Brown, tied in California, won't talk issues

With the race for California governor in a virtual tie, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown seem more interested in bashing each other than fixing the state's problems, analysts say.

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This is the fourth statewide Field Poll comparing Brown and Whitman, and the trend has been toward Whitman, who started out far behind Brown in October of 2009, and led him by three points in March.

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Analysts say that all the negative back-and-forth has ended up increasing both candidates' negatives: Whitman is now at 42 percent negative vs. 40 percent favorable, while Brown’s unfavorable numbers have grown from 25 percent to 40 percent, and 42 percent favorable. But instead of talking about issues, the attacks on both sides just seem to keep growing.

"They are spending much of their time slashing each other. The campaign so far is a cross between Dilbert and Freddy Krueger,” says Jack Pitney, political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. “At all levels, the best solution is for journalists, bloggers, and ordinary citizens to keep pressing candidates on two simple questions: What programs would you cut? What taxes would you raise?”

If the election remains close, analysts say the deciding factor is likely to be who is more successful among the roughly 20 percent of voters who don't identify with either party.

Walters points out that Whitman edges Brown among independents in the Field Poll, but roughly a fifth of them remain undecided. His disdain on behalf of the California electorate is clear. “One of the two will eventually win this election, and it would be nice if we knew before the fact what the winner is likely to do once in office," Walters writes. "Otherwise, for us, this contest is nothing more than a crapshoot.”

When asked when Whitman might get specific about California’s problems, campaign spokesperson Sarah Pompeii replied:

"We know there will be many polls during this race. We're confident that on Election Day in November, Californians will choose Meg's leadership to create jobs, cut spending and improve education.”

The Jerry Brown campaign did not respond to similar requests for comment.

The first of a 10-date debate and town-hall meeting series is planned for July 31.