The Republican race for governor this year pits a megamillionaire against a billionaire who's used her deeper pockets to great advantage in the opinion polls.
Poizner, a former high-tech entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley who also served on the National Security Council as a White House Fellow, said Monday that his past professional career, plus his recent experience in Sacramento, makes him a smarter bet to run state government than Whitman or Democrat Jerry Brown, the state's attorney general.
"I know this: People are angry right now," Poizner said in a Monday interview following an appearance before the San Diego County Federation of Republican Women in Mission Beach. "They want big, bold changes. They're embarrassed by California's meltdown, and they're hurting. The misery level's really high out there."
Poizner's poll numbers are low, though. He sees them rising if he can stake out the GOP's conservative base.
"Should we move the party to the center?" he asked the Federation of Republican Women audience at the Bahia Resort Hotel.
"No!" they loudly replied.
"No!" Poizner echoed. "We should elect people who believe in conservative core principles!"
Poizner's central message is cutting taxes across-the-board -- 10 percent on sales, income and corporate taxes, with a 50 percent on capital gains.
"I want everyone -- small businesses, families -- to get some tax relief and stimulate our economy," Poizner later explained to an interviewer. "Lower tax rates, larger tax base as jobs come back because the rates are low."
Poizner is being far outspent by Meg Whitman, who's talked of budgeting $150 million for her campaign. She has blitzed the airwaves with ads questioning Poizner's credentials as a Republican and conservative.
"In the middle of this deep recession," Poizner said of Whitman's spending, "it's going to backfire on her. This is an obscene amount of money. And she's trying, of course, to steamroll anybody who gets in her way. It's not going to work, in my case."
Nor does Poizner think he'd be steamrolled by a legislature under the control of Democrats.
"I'm not a rookie, I'm not a career politician," Poizner said. "I'm a problem-solver. That's what voters are looking for right now."
Voters will get a chance to see Poizner and Whitman in a face-to-face debate on March 15 in Costa Mesa.
The two will appear together -- but not in a debate format -- at a forum hosted by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation later this month
Another debate has been set for May 4.
Whitman, once accused of ducking Poizner, now says there may be more debates before the June 8 primary.