But Davis has the edge, partly as a result of his political skill. He built up a $60 million war chest and has spent it well. During the Republican primary campaign, he effectively attacked former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan, who lost to Simon despite having White House backing. Against Simon, he has played to the electorate's moderate, anticorporate leanings, producing $20 million of ads depicting the multimillionaire as a shady businessman with conservative views on social issues. Simon's opposition to abortion, gun control and environmental regulation has kept him on the defensive, while his relatively small bankroll has kept him from fighting back effectively. "This isn't a state where people have to love you to re-elect you," says Garry South, a Davis strategist. "They just have to feel that by some measure, you're a better alternative than your opponent."
Simon has played his hand badly. He delayed releasing his tax records, withdrew support for Gay Pride Day under pressure from ultraconservatives and endured a jury verdict that his family's investment firm had committed fraud. After a judge tossed out the verdict, Simon undermined his credibility by erroneously suggesting that Davis had illegally accepted a campaign contribution. Barring a dramatic shift, Davis should win. But it won't be charisma that does it for him.