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Why Kashkari’s Electoral Project Is a Total Failure

Friday, October 31st, 2014

ijackol001p4Neel Kashkari has argued throughout the 2014 campaign that he could alter the dynamics of party politics in California by demonstrating that a Republican who is socially moderate and economically conservative can win – or at least run competitively – in a race for governor.

The final Field Poll of the season demonstrates that thesis has failed. Kashkari is doing no better, and in most cases worse, than the no-name, down-ballot Republicans running for every other constitutional office: lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, controller, treasurer and insurance commissioner.

It’s not Kashkari who has demonstrated appeal to moderates, independents and dissatisfied partisans from across the aisle; it’s Gov. Jerry Brown who has done exactly this – running stronger than any of his party comrades down the ballot.

As Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, described Kashkari’s effort rather indelicately: “Evidence would suggest his campaign has had no effect.”

At the same time, DiCamillo observed, “Jerry Brown has done well. His tenure in office is giving him surplus votes beyond what any of the other Democrats are getting.”

xerxesWill Kashkari beat GOP turnout? Although actual voter registration is 43% Democrat, 28% Republican, 23% no party preference (NPP) and 5% other, the Field Poll’s survey sample — based on the actual voter file and expected turnout in a low-interest election — calculates an electorate that is 43% Democrat, 34% Republican and 23% NPP and other.

Nevertheless, Brown leads Kashkari 54-33% — just beating the all-important Calbuzz line – with broad appeal across race, age, gender, region and ideology.

“Kashkari’s argument that he’s doing something unique is not true,” said DiCamillo. “In fact, Brown is doing something unique: he’s pulling support beyond his base to a much greater extent than any other Democrat on the ballot.”

Kashkari is drawing just 76% of Republicans and 73% of conservatives while Brown is supported by 83% of Democrats and 90% of liberals. In the middle, Brown beats Kashkari 59-22% among NPP voters and 55-25% among moderates.

In other races down the ballot, the Field Poll finds:

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom (D) over Ron Nehring (R) 47-37%
Attorney General: Kamala Harris (D) over Ronald Gold (R) 49-36%
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla (D) over Pete Peterson (R) 44-37%
Controller: Betty Yee (D) over Ashley Swearengin (R) 44-36%
Treasurer: John Chiang (D) over Greg Conlin (R) 46-35%
Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones (D) over Ted Gaines (R) 45-33%

TorlaksonAndTuckSupe of PI an Actual Battle The only race at all competitive is the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction – a non-partisan race – in which Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck are tied at 28%, with 44% undecided. Both candidates are Democrats but eschewing party labels.

Torlakson leads by 7% among white non-Hispanic voters while Tuck is preferred by Latino, black and Asian voters. But Torlakson is favored by liberals while Tuck is leading among conservatives.

Clearly the lack of party identification gives voters fewer cues by which to guide their votes.

Which leads back to Kashkari’s fundamental problem: he’s a Republican in a state where the GOP brand is dog meat. And he’s running against a governor who is widely seen as doing a good job at guiding state government and moderating the liberal leanings of the Legislature.

Moreover, Kashkari’s basic premise – that California is going to hell in a hand basket – is simply not believable to voters who’ve seen the state budget balanced, partisan rancor cooled and slow but steady economic recovery throughout the state under Brown’s leadership.

Kashkari’s best argument for his project would seem to be that while taking moderate stances on abortion, immigration and gay marriage – breaks from the standard California Republican ideology – he’s at least not doing much worse than the run-of-the-mill GOP contenders.

But for all his attempts to reach beyond the traditional Republican base, Kashkari trails Brown among Latinos 62-23% and among women 57-28%. Some outreach.

hooverThe Props and Hoover’s Goof The Field Poll also reported that while Brown’s pet project – Proposition 1 (water bonds) – leading handily and other polls have show Brown’s Proposition 2 (rainy day fund) also ahead, Proposition 45 (giving the insurance commissioner controlling review of health insurance rate changes, and Proposition 46 (increasing malpractice awards and drug testing doctors) both are headed to defeat.

The Field Poll’s finding on Prop. 45 – 42% no to 30% yes – is similar to the finding from the Public Policy Institute of California, which had it 46-39% no. But it differed from a poll put out by the Hoover Institution (done by YouGov) which had Prop. 45 leading 42-30%.

It appears however, the Hoover’s poll grossly miscalculates the electorate: on the Prop. 45 question, for example, it’s got 50% Democrats, 24% Republicans and 21% independents; 56% whites and 23% Hispanics; and 33% voters aged 18-34. Those are all way off what most experts expect and it over-samples in all the demographics that are more supportive of Prop. 45.

On the other hand, in a question asked of Kashkari supporters, Hoover had one finding that was pretty interesting (and not dependent on sample size).

Only 29% of his backers said “I’m mostly voting for Neel Kashkari” while 69% (including 70% of Republicans and 73% of conservatives) said “I’m mostly voting against Jerry Brown.”

The Field Poll interviewed  1,536 randomly selected registered voters Oct. 15-28 by land line and cell phone, including 941 likely voters. The maximum margin of error of likely voters is +/- 3.4 percentage points. The Hoover Institution’s  YouGov poll was conducted Oct. 3-17, with an internet panel of 1,273, including an over-sample of 273 interviews with 18-34 year-olds. The alleged margin of error for the entire sample (used for virtually none of the questions) was +/- 3.65%. This, however, is a misnomer: margin of error pertains to probability sampling and using an internet panel and matching or weighting it to various known sample populations is, by definition, not a random sample.