Whitman, Poizner and Campbell Walk into Convention

Republican gubernatorial hopefuls to strut for John Birchers and the Howard Jarvis faithful

The California State GOP Convention kicks off on Friday in Indian Wells as the party faces the lowest number of registered Republicans statewide in its history with only 31 percent.

"It's down to white men and their spouses who are pro-life," noted non-partisan politics tracker Allan Hoffenblum to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Which should make things hot under the collar for the three possible gubernatorial candidates, all of whom have taken pro-choice stances to court more mainstream voters.

But while the three candidates will undoubtly have a few bon mots for the competition, don't expect any head-to-head sparring.

That's because putative front-runner Meg Whitman, who officially announced her candidacy after pouring millions of her own money into her campaign, doesn't want to debate until at least March, leaving Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former Representative Tom Campbell to score their points on the podium and in the press.

The three will likely focus on the state's dire economic straits, with each promise to slash harder and burn faster -- with Whitman promising to stop all of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's wasteful environmental initiatives.

Thankfully, the governor has already slashed all the money for domestic violence shelters, so Whitman can't also pick on abuse victims.

After declining previous invitations, Whitman has finally agreed to a debate -- next March. The event was organized by Majority Orange County.

All three candidates have backgrounds in Silicon Valley, and the weekend in the desert near Palm Springs and Indio should serve to introduce them to a wider audience in the inland south of the state, where party support is strongest.

Whitman is stopping in Clovis and Fresno today on the way down as her campaign picks up steam after the official announcement earlier this week.

Jackson West figures the Republicans have one long row to hoe, even in the California heartland.

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