Thursday, March 18, 2010

California Politics

There are a couple of recent polls that suggest Democrats are in trouble this November. Not so fast.

Senate Race
Barbara Boxer's unfavorable rating shot up according to the Field Poll. When I see big swings like this I wonder why. There is no denying this could be a harbinger of political death but there are other possibilities.

The Field Poll only contacted 748 likely voters, about 20% below their norm. With such small numbers statistical anomalies are always possible. There was a big swing in the numbers for non-partisans and a lesser, but still substantial swing among Democrats who like Boxer. Since Health Care Reform was the big issue before the Senate the past two months it is important to judge these swings in light of what the state thinks about HCR.

The most recent Field Poll report on HCR was in October. While the public option was not specifically polled this report shows Democrats and non-partisans strongly in favor of significant reform. The Senate, as we all know, handled their share of the HCR debate like ill-mannered five year-olds. This suggest Boxer's most recent polling decline may be the result of the failure of the Senate to deliver a strong HCR bill. If Republicans run on a platform of repealing HCR, as they promise, it will kill their chances in California.

Governor Race
Similarly, the Field Poll shows Jerry Brown narrowly behind Meg Whitman.

First, Jerry Brown is not the strongest candidate the Democrats could have sent. He's past his prime and is going to get the nomination by default because in Sacramento it is considered "his turn." (An aside: "His Turn" candidates have an annoying habit of being weak. Witness John McCain, Bob Dole, and Walter Mondale.) For the past two months Brown has been virtually invisible as he keeps his power dry for the general election.

Meg Whitman, on the other hand, is a billionaire determined to buy the governor's chair like it were an eBay tchotchke. Whitman burned through $20 million last year and she has promised to spend at least $150 million this year. Even if she matches Schwarzenegger 2006 vote total (unlikely) she will be spending over $30 for every vote she receives.

You can't turn on the television without being flooded with Whitman ads and we are still eight months from the election. She paid top dollar for saturation advertising during the Winter Olympics. All this advertising, and her opponent Poizner has been trying to match her, leads to the impression that Brown doesn't exist. Hence his lower polling numbers.

The obvious campaign strategy, once Brown starts, is to hit her profligate spending hard so that every Whitman TV ad reinforces the notion that she is a wild spendthrift. But, that's for October.

No comments: