For a long time, Meg Whitman rode high in the polls in her effort to win the Republican nomination in California for Governor.  Over the last month, her position has suddenly eroded, according to a new Survey USA poll, and now she finds herself in a dead heat with insurance commissioner Steve Poizner.  Now the former eBay CEO has to fight hard to hold onto a nomination that most people assumed she would win, with the primary just around the corner:

Not long ago Meg Whitman had such a huge lead – 50 points – over Steve Poizner for the GOP nomination for governor, many folks thought the race was over and started sizing up her chances against the Democrats’ Jerry Brown.

When she came in to talk to our Editorial Board last week, Whitman brushed off news that some polls showed Poizner had closed the gap to about 10 points. Still 10 points isn’t anything to scoff at, especially with only a little more than a month before the polls open.

Well, this week ABC’s SurveyUSA poll shows that Poizner is now 2 points behind her – 39 percent to 37 percent.

The poll itself shows Poizner advancing on all fronts.  He only trails Whitman by seven points among women, perhaps the most eye-opening result of all.  He wins voters under the age of 50, and wins Hispanic voters as well.   Poizner also edges Whitman among those voters who self-identify as conservatives, 41/38.

This could well be an outlier, but the trend seems pretty clearly in Poizner’s favor, and Survey USA is a fairly reliable pollster.  The video below notes that the previous Survey USA poll showed Whitman with a 22-point lead. Obviously, something’s changed, and not in Whitman’s favor.

Whenever a candidate loses a 50-point lead in the primary, it calls into question their ability to win in the general election, too.  The clear analog to this would be the Florida race with Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio, where the numbers completely reversed themselves in Rubio’s favor.  There probably isn’t enough time for Poizner to build that kind of lead over Whitman, but he’d probably be happy with a narrow victory and some momentum.

Maybe it’s time for media outlets to start gaming out a Poizner-Brown contest, too.