The latest J Moore Methods survey finds Jerry Brown leading Gavin Newsom in a two-way race for the 2010 Democratic nomination for governor 46-to-26 percent. It’s the first serious poll we know about that considers a Brown-Newsom match-up.
Because at least half of us at Calbuzz have been in the polling business (hint: it’s the much younger guy), we’re pretty darn careful about putting much stock in private polls. In this case, however, we’ve got data (and crosstabs) from a guy whose work and reputation we know is rock solid, whose client is NOT one of the candidates and who has no horse in the race.
So with 525 completed surveys with Democrats and independents and a 4.7 percent margin of error, this June 20-23 phone survey of California voters is packed with reliable data about the shape of the Democratic race.
Newsom’s spinners see a 46-26 percent race as a half empty glass for Brown. It’s a sign of weakness, they argue, that a current statewide official, former governor and son of a governor, who’s been on the state ballot 13 times can’t manage 50% against a statewide newbie from San Francisco.
Good spin, but just that.
Not only does Brown – who has yet to announce his candidacy — hold a 20-point lead more than a year before the primary, but among voters age 60 and older, the AG’s lead is 54-20 percent. And that matters because, as Moore told us: “The average age in the June 2010 Democratic primary electorate will likely be over 60.”
As Calbuzz sees it, Newsom has a humungous challenge.
According to data from the Secretary of State, the average age of a voter in November 2008 (that’s the Obama election, for Calbuzzers with short memories) was 50, and Moore’s polling suggests the average age of voters in the November 2010 general will be about 57.
The aging electorate – a function of both the Baby Boom bubble working its way through the system and a younger generation of voters who are not as politically engaged – not only favors Brown over Newsom in the primary but also is likely to help the General in the general as well.
Newsom’s best numbers against Brown come among voters age 18-39, where he is ahead 37-26 percent in a two-man contest. But Moore’s projections show this cohort would represent just 20 percent of the primary electorate.
Brown holds strong leads within other age categories: 49-to-28 percent among voters 40-59 (41 percent of the primary electorate) and 54-to-20 percent among voters aged 60 and older (38 percent of the primary voters).
Newsom also shows strength on his Bay Area home turf. Democrats and independents hold a favorable view of him – 55-to-21 percent – and he runs slightly ahead of Brown — 41-to-37 percent in the head-to-head match-up in the Bay Area.
However, Brown’s favorability in the Bay Area is even stronger – 54-to-13 (plus 41 percentage points) compared to Newsom’s plus 34 points). Brown also leads the one-on-one match-up in all other regions of the state: 46-to-24 percent in LA County; 52-to-16 percent in other Southern California, and 52-to-26 percent in other Northern California counties.
Moore’s poll included statistically significant measures both before and after L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa dropped out this week.
On the key measure of ethnic voters, Tony V held 34 percent of Latinos, compared to 28 percent for Brown and 9 percent for Newsom.
But with Antonio out of the way, Brown zooms to a 51-to-22 percent edge over Newsom among Latinos — a 23-point gain for the old guy and 13-point gain for the fresh-faced kid.
Latinos obviously know Brown a lot better than they know Newsom: 63 percent say they know who Brown is and his favorable-unfavorable among them is 42-to-3. By comparison, 41 percent of Latinos know Newsom, and his favorable-unfavorable is 15-to-8 percent.
Brown’s biggest problem lies squarely in the area where Newsom and campaign strategist Garry South have him in their sights:
“Younger people don’t know what Jerry stands for,” Moore said.
While 46 percent of Democratic and independent voters overall say they agree with Brown on important issues, that number is just 24 percent among the 18-39 voters, compared to 50 percent among those 40-59 and 53 percent among voters 60 and older.
Overall, 38 percent of voters think they agree with Newsom on the issues, but he’s strongest among those 18-39 years old (41 percent) and 40-59 (43 percent) and weakest among voters 60 and older (30 percent).
Newsom’s problem is the opposite of Brown’s: “He has to tell older voters he’s got what it takes to be governor,” Moore said.
Among all Democrats and independents, just 41 percent agree that Newsom has “sufficient skills to be governor,” and the view of his readiness to be governor declines as voters get older: 47 percent among those 18-39 say he’s ready, compared to 44 percent among those 40-59 and 35 percent among those 60 and older.
Brown currently enjoys a huge advantage on this fundamental measure, as 69 percent of primary voters say he’s got what it takes, which breaks down this way: 40 percent among those 18-39; 74 percent among those 40-59; and 78 percent among those 60 and older.
Moore emphasized the importance of this measure. Among voters who actually cast ballots in June 2008, Newsom scores just 39-to-23 percent compared to 77-to-8 percent for Brown.
Bottom line: To have a chance in a one-on-one primary race against Brown, Newsom is going to have to go beyond a straight generational pitch and find a way to convince large numbers of middle-age and geezer Democrats he’s got the Right (or Left) Stuff.
Calbuzz Emptor Caveats (that’s Latin for covering our ass)
1. There hasn’t been a campaign yet, and things always change when punches get thrown.
2. External events – an initiative challenge to Prop. 8 or an extraordinary Newsom registration and turnout effort among young voters – could change the makeup of the June 2010 primary electorate.
3. Time’s running short, but it’s not too late for a wild card candidate to jump in the race and scramble the dynamics.
4. Jerry’s really old.
5. Conventional wisdom is always wrong.
– By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine