Tuesday, February 18, 2014

California Congressional Polls in CA-21 and CA-33

The National Republican Congressional Committee, NRCC, is out with a primary poll for CA-21. The poll shows Republican congressman David Valadao leading with 45%, Fresno businessman John Hernandez with 25%, and former congressional staffer Amanda Renteria with 13%. While I'm always skeptical of candidate and party polls I'm okay with these numbers for two reasons. Valadao got 57% in the 2012 primary and his Democratic opponents got 43%. So the total Republican vote here is only 7% higher than the Democratic vote, half what it was in 2012. Secondly, the interesting thing about the poll isn't Valadao's lead, but who is in second. While the NRCC might manipulate the numbers to make Valadao stronger, they are less likely to do so to make one Democrat look weaker than the other. And the most interesting thing about the poll is that David Hernandez, who has raised no money, has an almost 2 to 1 lead over Renteria.

Renteria's spokesman dismisses her trailing Hernandez by noting he's been on the ballot before, but a weak candidate who's done little to push his candidacy shouldn't be beating the DCCC endorsed candidate who has raised $338k. If this poll is accurate it's likely because of the characteristics of the Central Valley. Candidates need to have long ties to the area. Valadao is a farmer and Hernandez is the head of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Renteria graduated from a high school that's a few miles outside the district 20+ years ago. So her flimsy connection is actually outside the district.

There are two examples of Central Valley Democrats having similar problems. In 2012, DCCC recruit Blong Xiong raised a lot more money than Hernandez, but he too was from outside the district. Hernandez beat him in the primary. Then last year Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez ran for a state senate district where Barack Obama got 63% of the vote. She lost, likely due to her being from outside the district and her political inexperience.

This shows the problem Democrats have in the Central Valley. Despite their overwhelming registration advantage, you need the right candidate to win in the Central Valley. And the Democratic bench is clearly thin.

Former Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel has put out an internal poll for CA-33 that has her leading with 29%, state Sen. Ted Lieu with 21%, Republican Elan S. Carr with 19%, independent author Marianne Williamson with 7% and documentary producer Brent Roske with 1%. As with the NRCC poll, Greuel put out this poll for one reason, to show her strength. So it should be taken with a grain of salt. The first issue is how much of the vote is going to Democrats. Even if we don't include Williamson as a Democrat, Democrats get 50% in the poll to Republicans getting 19%. In 2012, left leaning candidates got 56% to 44% for right leaning candidates. Williamson is running to the left of even the Democrats. If her votes are regarded as left leaning that'd mean that every left leaning voter has made a decision, but the right leaning voters are heavily undecided. That doesn't happen in an election, especially when there are plenty of choices on the left but only one on the right. What decision are the right leaning voters trying to make? It seems likely that Greuel loaded the poll heavily with Democrats to inflate her numbers. If there's only one Republican in the race, not only will Carr make Top Two, he'll be the leading vote getter.

The second issue is that they included only two Democrats, even though there are now five of them in the field. Matt Miller, who could be a serious contender, only entered the field on Friday. So it's understandable that they might not include him. The other two candidates are "some dude" unknowns. While they won't get a lot of votes "some dude" Democrats and Greens got 10.4% of the vote in 2012. Zein Obagi was one of them and got 1.8% of the vote. He's running again. So these candidates should get at least 1-2% of the vote, further eroding Greuel and other Democrats.

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