In the GOP Senate race, Carly Fiorina is barnstorming the state, making one stop after another in Republican-heavy media markets. Tom Campbell is avoiding the stump, instead seeking out TV and radio interviews. Chuck DeVore held a news conference at the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight his tough-on-illegal-immigration stand.

In the GOP governor's race, Los Gatos resident Steve Poizner talked to voters from a phone bank in San Jose before hitting the road for the weekend. Atherton resident Meg Whitman, the GOP front-runner, continued racing across the state as if she were down 10 points in the polls instead of being up 25.

The final countdown to Election Day got under way Friday, as candidates began their last big push for votes in ways that reflect their personalities, campaigning styles and positions in the polls.

When Poizner stopped by a Coldwell Banker real-estate office on Berryessa Road on Friday night to rally a dozen phone-bank troops, he personally tried to persuade several undecided voters to vote for him.

"We got him!" the insurance commissioner shouted after spending about five minutes on the phone with one voter.

"People have lots of questions about what they're hearing" on TV in negative ads, Poizner told reporters later. "So it's a pleasure to set the record straight."


Advertisement

A Field Poll released Friday showed Whitman beating Poizner 52 percent to 26 percent. But Poizner said he wasn't discouraged by the poll numbers because "they've been moving all over the place" because "people are confused."

Fiorina, known for her high energy level and ability to draw media coverage when she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is displaying those same characteristics in the home stretch of her first political race. In a dash across the state starting in Sacramento today and ending in San Diego on Monday, with stops in the Central Valley and Los Angeles in between, she is harnessing her newfound front-runner status to generate media coverage and momentum for a general election against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Officially, the events are designed for Fiorina to meet with volunteers as they make phone calls to voters on her behalf. But reporters are encouraged to attend as well.

"The goal," said Fiorina aide Julie Soderlund, "is to travel to as many major media markets as we can, with a focus on ones where Republican voters reside" in large numbers.

Campbell is taking a much different approach. Trailing Fiorina by about 15 points in the polls and short on campaign cash, he is focusing his efforts in the final days on what's known in campaign parlance as "earned media" — TV, radio and newspaper interviews. Aside from helping him to reach voters without spending money, the strategy provides a forum for the law professor and former congressman to explain his detailed, nuanced positions.

"They can have an extended dialogue about his issues and why he's running," said Campbell's spokesman, Jamie Fisfis.

The one public appearance Campbell is making this weekend will be today in Silicon Valley, his political birthplace — a "house party" in Saratoga with his supporters. There will be no loud music or beer kegs in the backyard, though: The attendees will be making phone calls to Republicans urging a vote for Campbell.

DeVore, a conservative Orange County assemblyman, kicked off his weekend by staging a media event at the border — an attempt to remind voters of his conservative cred. DeVore has consistently trailed Fiorina and Campbell, but he's hoping the surveys aren't capturing his true level of support.

The dynamics of the governor's race — a higher-profile, bigger-money affair — has had an altogether different feel.

In the past year, Whitman and Poizner have each given hundreds of traditional stump speeches at town-hall meetings and rallies. They've visited a slew of farms and businesses — manufacturing plants, ice cream shops, tiny retail stores.

Whitman has attended several high-powered fundraisers with GOP celebrities such as John McCain, Mitt Romney and Condoleezza Rice. Her events are often catered and feature professional lighting, flat-screen TVs playing commercials and pop music making the joints hop. The events often have the aura of a presidential campaign.

When she launched her Latino coalition, a Grammy Award-winning mariachi band provided the entertainment, and Whitman was given a sombrero. And at a rally Thursday afternoon at Redding Airport, her campaign tossed out some red meat to the conservative crowd — literally, in the form of free tri-tip dinners prepared by C.R. Gibbs American Grille.

Poizner's events were often held in homey community centers featuring supporters with handmade signs, with the candidate fielding questions from conservatives who had come to see if he was the real deal.

"Our events are not scripted," said Jarrod Agen, Poizner's spokesman. "And," he quipped, "the only free red meat is in the messaging."

Contact Mike Zapler at mzapler@mercurynews.com or 202-662-8921.