The big question is which Republican – Tim Donnelly, the gun-toting arch conservative and Tea Party favorite, or Neel Kashkari, the former Treasury official and Establishment choice – will carry the GOP banner in the fall.
It matters to Republicans, who are worried that having Donnelly as their candidate – with his extremist stands on immigration, gun control and government in general – will further erode the GOP’s brand in California, where fewer than 30% of voters identify with the party.
Why? As our old friend Garry South, the Democratic strategist, put it in the Sac B-: “If Democratic legislative candidates are smart – and they are – they will make Donnelly a centerpiece of their campaign. How? By demanding that their GOP opponent either say they are voting for Donnelly, and thereby align themselves with his far-right views that are completely out of sync with most California voters. Or, distance themselves from him and denounce those views, and thereby risk alienating their own conservative Republican base voters.”
The latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California suggests that while Kashkari – who is spending $2 million of his own money on TV ads and has enlisted endorsements from GOP Respectables like Pete Wilson, Mitt Romney and Condi Rice – has improved his standing, he may be running out of time.
In three months, Kashkari has moved to 10% in May, up 8 percentage points from March, when he was at 2%. Donnelly, meanwhile, stands at 15% in May, up 7 points from March. Both lag far behind Gov. Brown who pulls 48% in May, compared to 47% in March.
Where Kashkari has made inroads is among likely Republican voters. In May, he has won support from 21% of the GOP voters, up 17 percentage points from March. By comparison, Donnelly pulls 30% of the Republican vote, up 10% from March.
In other words, among Republicans, Kashkari is closing the gap with Donnelly.
The big question is can Kashkari tap into the 34% of GOP voters in particular and perhaps the 35% of independents as well, who remain undecided?
If he could afford statewide media, featuring some of the respected Republicans supporting him and warning against support for Donnelly, Kashkari might have a chance to win second place on June 3. But as long as Donnelly holds onto the base conservative vote and nothing makes enough news to cause undecided voters to act differently than already-decided voters, he should be able to win the chance to move onto November.
PPIC surveyed 1,702 California adult residents, including 1,192 interviewed on landline telephones and 510 interviewed on cell phones May 8–15, 2014. . The sampling error for 1,038 respondents identified as likely voters, it is ±4.6 percent; for the 901 primary likely voters, it is ±4.9 percent.