State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who’s being pummelled in the polls by his GOP gubernatorial opponent Meg Whitman, doesn’t seem to be breaking a sweat about it. At the Commonwealth Club in Lafayette Thursday, the audience was reminded that Poizner is 1) a black belt in karate, 2) the guy who helped invent the GPS that’s in their cell phones and 3) a politician with millions in his campaign warchest.

Poizner doesn’t sound like a guy who’s done, down and out in the governor’s race. And in an energetic speech before the Layfayette audience, and in an interview with the Chronicle, he appeared charged and ready to kick up some trouble when he insisted that Californians will soon know in a big way about his record — and that of the former eBay CEO.

“If voters are looking for a third term of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who will make small, incremental changes, they’ll vote for Meg Whitman,” he says. “If they want to take the state in a different direction, with bold sweeping change, they’ll vote for me.”

After all, he says with a smile, Whitman was not too long ago “a senior level marketing executive in charge of Mr. Potato Head,” who didn’t until recently show much interest in public service, community service, politics or even voting.

“What’s really going on?” he asks. “We’re going to turn the state over to someone who has no track record to handle a crisis? The governor’s office is no place to test to see if she’s really interested” (in politics), he says. “Running the state of California is not like running a business.”

Poizner made the comments before speaking to about 150 Commonwealth Club members in Lafayette, just days after a new Field Poll showed Whitman has pulled ahead of Democrat Jerry Brown and now has a more than 4-1 lead over Poizner, while she’s gaining strength in the Democratic stronghold of Los Angeles, among women, over-40 voters and independents.

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