California Polls

There's been some early polling in CA's major state races. With one exception, all are dead heats. Since this has been a left-liberal state since the mid-Nineties (and the state's large independent vote has a default setting which could be described as "public school liberalism"), that is quite a change. Must be some sort of devious Republican plot.

First off there's the governor's race between Jerry Brown (D) and Meg Whitman (R ca. 2008). Brown has a miniscule one point lead, combined with moderately high unfavorables. Personally, I've been saying Brown thinks he's going to lose because he's already prepping his "I was outspent/it was all advertising/voters are idiots" concession speech. Looks like the CA MSM has reached the same conclusion: Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown In Virtual Tie

California's race for governor is a dead heat, as Republican Meg Whitman's massive advertising blitz coupled with Democrat Jerry Brown's lo-fi campaign have raised doubts about Brown and cut his lead among Latino voters and other key Democratic constituencies, a Field Poll released today shows.

Brown leads Whitman 44 to 43 percent in the poll, with 13 percent undecided, according to Field's survey of 1,005 likely voters. The poll, conducted June 22 to July 5, has a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

But billionaire Whitman's relentless advertising campaign has helped sour voters' views of Brown, with 40 percent holding an unfavorable opinion of him - up from 25 percent in March 2009. Still, 42 percent view him favorably.

Voters feel similarly mixed about Whitman, with 40 percent viewing her favorably. But 42 percent view her unfavorably, up from 27 percent in March 2010, largely because of her bruising GOP primary against Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and attacks on her from union-backed independent expenditure groups.

Advertising? That's your analysis? The real problem for Brown is that CA has been living through a crisis of Big Government for the last 2 years brought on by an unholy combination of gold-plated pensions, out of control budgeting, a hostile business climate, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and sub-prime lending. None of these were "Republican" phenomenon. They are exactly the sort of results you get when you elect Democrats into the vast majority of state offices. More of the same isn't going to cut it this year.

But, sure, it's the advertising.

The race for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat is also all tied up, with The Box weighed down by an emphatic 52% disapproval rating. It could be that this is because she is one of the worst Democrats in the state, a shrill loudmouth who thinks she's smart because she's a liberal. That's not the spin coming out of the state run media, however:

One of Boxer's more vexing problems, analysts say, is that opposition to her is not just about her. She has become an avatar for broader voter frustrations about the struggling economy, President Obama and the growth of the federal government.

"It's a reflection of the effectiveness of a Republican strategy to characterize Sen. Boxer as everything that's wrong with the government," said Larry Berman, a professor of political science at UC Davis. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., another longtime Democrat facing a tough re-election challenge, faces a similar predicament, Berman said.

Sorry, La Box is the face of progressive government in all its nannying "call me ma'am" glory. That's not a Republican talking point. It's a fact of life.

In the attorney's general race, Republican Steve Cooley enjoys a slight lead over SF's very own DA Kamala Harris. Of course, 70% of the poll's respondents said they'd never heard of Cooley or Harris, which is par for course for down ticket races. If Cooley has half a brain, he will make sure voters know what a terrible district attorney Harris has been. I mean, take your pick. There's her refusal to seek the death penalty for a cop killer. There's the on-going problem in the drug lab. There's her office's apparent failure to turn over evidence of impeachment evidence to defense attorneys. There's their pitifully small conviction rate. And there's the program that managed to protect illegal alien juveniles from ICE, at least one of whom went on to murder a local butcher and his sons. The one thing Harris has going for her is that she presents well; she's cool, professional and always looks good in her suit. Still, I can't shake the nagging feeling that Cooley's one of those guys who likes to pompously reject "negative campaigning."

The only race that is a rout so far is the one for Lieutenant Governor, where SF mayor Gavin Newsom has a 9 point lead over moderate Republican - and incumbent LG - Abel Maldonado.

The Field Poll shows Newsom leading incumbent Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado - who took office as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointee in April - by nine percentage points, with 23 percent of likely voters undecided.

"It's still early. Relatively few people are aware of any of the candidates except Newsom," said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. "His lead is based on name recognition - it's not really a level playing field yet, but it will be before we get to the election."

While Newsom is much better known than Maldonado, a former state senator, the poll shows that he also has far higher negatives: 67 percent of voters know of the San Francisco mayor, but 41 percent of those polled hold a negative image of him and just 26 percent have a favorable opinion. Those negatives skyrocket among Republicans: 66 percent of GOP voters polled have an unfavorable opinion, while 42 percent of Democrats view him positively.

Newsom's challenge, DiCamillo said, will be to reinforce his positive image but also attempt to define Maldonado before the Republican can define himself.

I'm honestly torn about this one. On the one hand, Newsom is a SF Democrat. On the other, Maldonado is practically the poster boy for the sort of moderate Republican squishes who have enabled so much of the destructive policies wrought by the state's progressive politicians. He provided the crucial third GOP vote for the "Debt & Taxes" budget deal that was rejected in last year's Special Election. He was also behind the open primaries initiative from last month. The man simply can't be trusted to stand firm for anything beyond his own re-election. At least I know where Newsom's coming from.

Clearly, the closeness of most of these races testifies to the major opportunity Republicans have in a state that really hasn't voted in large numbers of Republicans in a long time. As with Scott Brown's election, the job of the GOP candidates is to convince the many millions of people who have been lazily voting for Democrats for the past decade that, no, Republicans are not evil and that voting for one won't cause you to burst into flame. We're probably lucky that this year the GOP did not nominate any "social conservative with mistress" types. But Whitman and (especially) Fiorina have the chance to do some real good this year. Hopefully, they won't blow it.

Smiles, everybody! Smiles!

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