Race to Succeed Schwarzennegger Heats Up

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Published September 22, 2009

| FoxNews.com

In a small courtyard, in the college town of Fullerton, former eBay CEO and political novice Meg Whitman Tuesday made a giant announcement -- officially launching her bid for California's highest office.

The race for governor is heating up with the state's economic woes taking center stage.With California's unemployment rate over 12 percent, analysts say Whitman's business background may be far more valuable than any political experience her rivals have. 

"I want to focus first and foremost on job creation and keeping jobs in California,"Whitman said. "We cannot afford to lose another job to a neighboring state."

Dan Schnur, a political scientist at USC, said Whitman's biggest challenge at this point is "explaining to voters that her skills in the private sector as a CEO balancing budgets, making difficult leadership decisions are directly applicable to  a state that is facing the kind of budget and economic crisis that the state is dealing with right now." 

And if the money is the question, Whitman has lots of it. The billionaire has already donated $19 million of her own to her campaign and says she's willing to spend more, outpacing her GOP rival Steve Poizner, a California insurance commissioner.

The Democratic contenders for their part have collected hefty sums too. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown has more than $7 million. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has collected nearly $2 million, a mere fraction of the roughly $100 million dollars experts say will be needed to win the race.

Analysts are also keeping a watchful eye on the longtime Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein, who could still enter the race late in the game and be an automatic front runner.

"There is so much money on the table in a California election," Democratic strategist Susan Estrich said. "So you will see, I mean so much money to be spent. These candidates will spend like presidential candidates."

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