(LOS ANGELES) - Conservative businessman Bill Simon has pulled slightly ahead of moderate former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan with less than a week before the GOP primary, a new poll found.
Wednesday's poll by the Field Institute of San Francisco represents a dramatic shift in the dynamics of the race, once considered a certain victory for Riordan. In the last Field poll, released Jan. 29, Riordan enjoyed a 33-point lead over Simon.
The new numbers show Simon with support from 37 percent of likely voters in the Republican primary, Riordan with 31 percent and Secretary of State Bill Jones with 9 percent. The poll has a margin of sampling error for likely GOP voters of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Riordan still fared better in a hypothetical matchup with Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Both Simon and Jones were about even with the governor, while Riordan was slightly ahead: 46 percent to 40 percent among likely general election voters.
The margin of sampling error for that group was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
The Field poll comes a day after a Los Angeles Times poll that found Riordan and Simon running even in the primary, with 31 percent apiece.
Riordan kicked off the final week of sparring with an ad attacking Simon for failing to vote in past elections and registering as an independent in 1984.
``I have been more Republican by far,'' Riordan said at a press conference Tuesday. It was a role reversal for a man who's been on the defensive for months over his own record of donating to Democrats.
Simon struck back with a new line of attack: accusing Riordan of opposing President Bush's tax cut and supporting a plan by former President Clinton that included tax hikes.
The Field poll interviewed 928 California residents from Feb. 21-25, including 387 likely GOP primary voters and 718 likely general election voters.
Simon's late father, William, was secretary of the treasury in the Nixon and Ford administrations and the ``energy czar'' during the 1970s oil crisis.