Newsom 30, Cox 18, Allen 16, Villaraigosa 9, Chiang 7
If this poll is accurate Villaraigosa has little chance. Cox and Allen split the GOP vote and still lap Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa is actually 5th with NPP voters, so undecided NPP voters should actually put him further behind when they decide. Unfortunately for him, Democratic voters have the lowest percentage of undecideds. Villaraigosa's only path to second place is to take a lot of Democratic votes from Newsom. It seems unlikely he could grab enough. Since the state is so heavily Democratic the perception is that only a Democrat could beat Gavin Newsom in the general election. I don't see any reason to disagree with that but it's worth noting that John Cox and Travis Allen are in a genuine close race for second now.
Feinstein 28, de Leon 11, Bradley 10
Wait. What? Who is the Republican leader James Bradley? Bradley's strong showing has perplexed the Sacrmaneto Bee and San Francisco Chronicle.
The answer is hardly complicated. First, let me debunk two theories I've already seen. The first is that the names were listed in alphabetical order and that Bradley benefitted from that. In Chronicle article Mark DiCamillo, the poll’s director, disputes this since “since the first five names listed were all Republicans and that only one of them received significant support.”
Secondly, there’s no evidence to support that Republicans will pick an anglo sounding name. In 2014, none of the Republicans were well known or ran much advertising. Yet Neel Kashkari beat Tim Donnelly by 4.6%. The Republican with the most votes in the 2016 Senate race was Duf Sundheim. I’ve never heard of the first name Duf before and have no idea the ethnic origin of Sundheim. Names like Phil Wyman and Greg Conlon are more Anglo sounding and yet Sundheim beat them.
To understand the answer you need to know how California voters pick their candidate when they have no information other than what's in the voting booth. The ballot gives them one snippet, ballot designation. That's the occupation listed below the candidate on the ballot. Ballot designation almost propelled unknown David Evans into top two in the 2014 Controller race.
James Bradley’s ballot designation is “Chief Financial Officer.” The other Republicans list occupations like "Teacher," "Bus Driver," and "Civil Rights Advocate." While those are all admirable professions they aren't what Republican voters are looking for in their candidates. They like ballot designations that show success in business. Only three of the Republicans have ballot designations that’d appeal to Republican voters and Bradley’s is probably the strongest. When I brought this up to California election data expert Paul Mitchell, he agreed with my assessment. So mystery solved.
The poll is still good news for Kevin de Leon even with so much of the Republican vote going to Bradley. de Leon is getting a decent 15% of Democrats and 15% of NPP voters. Dianne Feinstein is only getting 19% of NPP voters and all the Republicans combined are getting 12%. If undecideds break the way the voters in this poll do, de Leon gets 23% of Democrats and 28% of NPP. That'd give him around 18% of the vote and there's a decent shot he makes top two even if Bradley is as strong as he looks here.