Thursday, October 19, 2017

CA-Sen Poll Good News for Dianne Feinstein

When it comes to understanding California politics and elections, few are better than Capitol Weekly. Out of state pollsters don't ever seem to be able to figure out who is going to vote and who won't. One piece of information that's publicly available is how many of the last five elections a voter has cast a vote in. Anyone participating in California campaigns knows that when you're targeting voters you go after "4s" and "5s." Those are people who've in either 4 of the last 5 elections or all 5.

When polling you want to heavily poll the "4s" and "5s," especially in a mid-term. Mid-terms draw less voters and the "1s" and "2s" have likely skipped previous mid-terms. Of course, there are exceptions. Young voters weren't registered for the last 5 elections and some people move to California from out of state. I don't know who Capitol Weekly surveyed in their latest poll but I trust them.

Capitol Weekly polled for the primary, asking people whether they preferred Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Democrat Kevin de Leon, or Republican John Cox. Cox is running for governor, so he won't be running for senate. Cox, however, was polled with 9% favorable 6% unfavorable that are 9%/6% with 14% having no opinion and 71% having never heard of him. He's pretty much “generic Republican" to the voters. They could've used almost any name.

In a hypothetical match-up between Feinstein, de Leon, and John Cox, Feinstein gets 40%, Cox 32%, and de Leon 15%. They don’t break down the vote by party but, but Cox’s number is high enough that Feinstein is getting no more than 5-10% of Republican voters. And there are likely a few more Republican points in the 13% undecided voters. If Republicans get 35% of the vote in the primary, De Leon would need Republican voters to split their votes among 3-4 candidates or he’d need to significantly eat into Feinstein’s 40%. This should be a wake up call to California GOP chairman Jim Brulte. He wants a Republican to make the general election. If one is on the ballot he's more likely to get better turn out to help Republicans down ballot. He needs someone with a little bit of name ID and a little bit of money. Neither has to be that big.

The hypothetical general election head-to-head for Feinstein and de Leon has Feinstein winning 36%-17%. In that election 28% said they wouldn’t vote for either. These are likely almost entirely Republican voters. In 2016 15% of voters left the race blank and that was pretty high compared to other states. It certainly would help de Leon in a general election if Republican voters were to leave the ballot blank. If they do vote, Feinstein will probably get 75-80%. Anything over 50% puts him further behind.

This poll is what I expected. There's little path to victory for de Leon due to top two.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Kevin de León Ad

A Super PAC supporting Kevin de León is out with an ad. As expected de León is running as the progressive champion. As I've gone into in detail that's not going to win him a U.S. Senate seat.

So why are they positioning de León here? He has nowhere else to go. His resume is as a progressive champion. His reason for running is to be a progressive champion. Dianne Feinstein is vulnerable from a progressive position.

Don't they realize de León can't win if all he's running is as a progressive anti-Trump candidate? I'm sure they do but it's possible that progressives think that over half of California's voters will support a progressive.

Why run if they don't? I can give a few possibilities. Maybe the objective isn't for de León win but highlight progressive policies and move Feinstein and the rest of California to the left. De León is termed out of the state senate so why not do that?

What else? It may be macabre to say this but Dianne Feinstein will be 85 next year. While I haven't heard she isn't healthy that's years past the average life expectancy. It's possible that she withdraws due to illness or death before the primary deadline in March. While beating Feinstein might be nearly impossible de León could win a race she's not in. If that happens after the filing deadline Feinstein will still be on the ballot. You can't get off the California ballot once you're on. Yes, even if you die. If she were to finish top two, she'd advance to the November election, even though she wouldn't be able to serve. Either of those scenarios could put de León in the U.S. Senate.

If Feinstein is re-elected but can't serve her entire term de León will have an excellent argument that he should be appointed to the seat, since he will have gotten a lot of votes. And he'd have an excellent argument in a special election, along with name ID and a volunteer/donor base.

I'm not wishing ill on Dianne Feinstein. May she live a long life. But if I've considered the possibility de León's people have also.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Kevin de León Will Challenge Dianne Feinstein

Kevin de León made it official. He's challenging Diane Feinstein for her U.S. Senate seat. I understand his desire to run. De León wants to be a senator. He wants to have a bold progressive in office. They think California, the leader of the resistance, is perfect for that. Clinton did win 30 points here after all.

Beating Dianne Feinstein one-on-one in a Democratic primary would be hard to do. She's got name ID, money, and is beloved. Feinstein is the establishment Democrat (Hillary Clinton) and de León's is the bold progressive Bernie Sanders. Sanders couldn't beat Clinton in a Democratic primary in California. He lost by 7%.

But wait. Am I forgetting that top two means no Democratic primary? I haven't, but I think de León has. Yes, it's possible de León finishes 2nd in the primary. It's debatable whether it's possible for him to finish 1st. Even if he does there's no way Feinstein finishes 3rd. He has to go up against Feinstein in November.

But wait. Am I forgetting that Kamala Harris won a Senate seat and she's fairly progressive? No, because Harris was running against an unknown Loretta Sanchez and de León is running against Dianne Feinstein. Harris didn't run on progressive policies. She never mentioned the environment, healthcare, or immigration. She ran on how she was a fearless fighter who sued everyone on behalf of Californians. Few people would be against a candidate the big corporations to cough up bucks for the average Californian.

Kevin de León's record isn't that he was the attorney general who took on big banks. His record is progressive champion and he wants to let you know Trump "demonizes our diversity. Attacks our civil rights, our clean air, our health access and our public safety." He's running on the idea that Trump is terrible and his voters are deplorables. While I shudder at a politician showing contempt for any of their constituents, the resistance will love it the more he does it.

If de León makes top two he won't be in an election with only Democratic voters. He'll have Republicans and moderate NPPs. They'll be somewhere between 34-41% of the electorate, but there'll be blank ballots. So the numbers may be 29-35%. If they are 33% and Feinstein takes 80% of them, de León would have to beat Feinstein 65%-35% with left leaning voters. Sanders got 46.5% of the vote. How's de León going to get 65%.

I'm doubtful de León gets 20% of right leaning voters. His ads will emphasize how he's going to stop the evil Trump is and how progressive he is. Harris gave Republicans a reason to vote for her. He's running on how he doesn't want their votes. Will de León even send mailers to Republicans to get their votes? What would those mailers say?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kevin de Leon May Challenge Dianne Feinstein

Per CNN California Democratic state Senate president Kevin de León will enter the 2018 California Senate election. Senator Dianne Feinstein announced her plans to run for re-election earlier this week.

Taking on a Democratic party icon like Feinstein will be a real challenge for de León. He's going to challenge her from her left, saying she's too moderate for California. There have been successful challenges to Republican senators from grassroots candidates to their right but it's rare. I can't recall a sitting Democratic senator losing a challenge from their left, so it's probably just as rare if not more so.

de León has several things working against him. He's unknown statewide and has no money in a campaign account yet. California is a very expensive state to advertise in even if you have money. Feinstein had $3.6 million as of June 30 and she's well known statewide already. de León could get a boost from progressive groups that know him. The California Nurses Association is a very powerful special interest group and they're likely to endorse de León.

Gavin Newsom is running far to the left in the gubernatorial race and is leading in polls. If it works for Newsom, why not de León? Newsom has advantages. There's no incumbent in his race, let alone a popular incumbent who's built up years of good will with the voters. Newsom is fairly well known statewide. He likely is getting a good share of Democratic and NPP voters who know him and think he'd make a good governor. Those people aren't currently in de León's camp. If he runs to Feinstein's left he's not going to try to get them.

If California's size and Feinstein's goodwill aren't enough of a hurdle California's top two primary creates a bigger one. In top two everyone gets to vote for any candidate they want from any party. Feinstein is popular with people who don't have a party preference and some Republicans. Especially if the alternative is further to her left. While he could conceivably get more votes than her among Democrats, he won't in top two.

The good news about top two is that de León will advance to November whether he finishes first or second. To finish second de León would likely have to beat a Republican candidate. Republicans tend to vote for Republicans, even the candidate is just a name on the ballot. In order to make top two de León actually needs Republicans to vote for Feinstein in the primary. He needs the remaining Republican vote to be spread out enough that no Republican gets more than than he does. His ceiling is probably 15-20% in a primary. de León would really benefit if Republicans don't coalesce behind one candidate, but split them among two or more. Right now the Republicans in the race are names on the ballot. So that benefits de León if it doesn't change.

Then he'd have to beat Feinstein in the general election. While Republicans voting Feinstein in the primary could benefit de León, he needs them to leave the ballot blank in the general election. But if they voted Feinstein in the primary she may have already gotten those voters for the general election. In 2016 two Democrats ran for Senate in the general election and 14% of the Californians who voted for President didn't vote for the Senate. In Pennsylvania that number was 1%. In New York it was 5%. So there is precedent for blank ballots.