If Meg Whitman's gubernatorial campaign keeps burning greenbacks at the rate it has since the first of the year, her war chest will be empty shortly after noon on Thursday, the first of April.

No April Fools.

So the political speculation on Monday centered on when the billionaire would write her next big check and just how huge it will be.

Whitman has already donated $39 million to her campaign — a California political record for self-funding. But a radio and TV ad campaign that picked up steam in February led to her spending $27.2 million in the first 11 weeks of the year — an average of $358,439 a day.

As of March 17, when campaign finance reports were last filed, she had $4.5 million in her campaign kitty, enough for 121/2 days.

So far, the campaign's been mum as to when the former eBay CEO will make another deposit. But it was obvious Monday that the depleted coffers would have no effect on Whitman's carpet-bombing of California's airwaves.

"Our campaign will have all the resources it needs to run a smart, strategic campaign,'' said Sarah Pompei, Whitman's spokeswoman, noting that the campaign began running a new TV ad over the weekend.

The 30-second spot features Whitman drawing a comparison between running a business and running a state government.

"Government will never be a business,'' Whitman says in the ad. "It shouldn't be a business. But it does need a dose of how do we do more for less.''

Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for Whitman's GOP opponent, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, said he expected Whitman to spend another $50 million before the June 8 primary.

Never, Agen said, "has so much money been spent to say so little.''

Poizner, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has written checks for $19.2 million to his campaign, has more than $14 million left in his coffers.

Down about 50 points in the polls, Poizner of late has been directing much of his message to the right wing of his party by calling for a renewed crackdown on illegal immigration.

"He's betting that a low-turnout election will mean that only the most enthusiastic part of the base will turn out,'' said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California.

Contact Ken McLaughlin at (408) 920-5552.

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