Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump hold narrow statewide leads over Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz in their parties’ presidential contests in California, according to the latest Field Poll. Far more important, however, is how many convention delegates any of them will walk away with on June 7, a complete crap shoot because so much of the delegate allocation process depends on where the candidates run well.
Despite what some of our brothers and sisters in the media seem to believe, no candidate in either party is likely to sweep huge delegate margins in California’s behemoth primaries.
First the numbers: Clinton leads Sanders 47-41% with 12% undecided. Sanders kills her among younger voters and the most liberal voters. Clinton crushes him among older voters and moderates. Men prefer Bernie 48-40%; women like Hillary 53-36%. Oh, and Clinton buries Sanders among actual Democrats 50-39% while Sanders wins big among independents, who are allowed to vote in the Democratic primary 49-39%.
In the GOP race it’s Trump 39%, Cruz 32% and John Kasich 18%. Men prefer Trump over Cruz 46-29%, while women break for Cruz, 36-31%, Cruz wins evangelicals 40-38% while Trump carries others 39-27%. The most conservative voters split at about 40% but less conservative voters prefer Trump over Cruz 36-24%, with Kasich at 26%
Location, Location, Location As every school child knows, however California’s June primaries are not what you’d normally think of as “elections,” where one person wins and the other person loses. There’s an element of that, with a relatively small number of delegates at stake for the statewide winner. But for both parties, the primary is really 53 individual contests in Congressional districts which, as anyone who’s spent a week in California knows, differ radically.
The Republicans will allocate 172 delegates, but 159 of them will come from winner-take-all contests in 53 congressional districts. Only 13 are available statewide. Those rules could work against Trump: Even if he were to win statewide, Trump would get only 13 delegates for his trouble; with a superior campaign organization in targeted districts, Cruz could lose the statewide vote and still garner a significant delegate haul.
For Democrats, California coughs up 548 delegates, 317 of them in proportional contests in the 53 congressional districts ranging in size from 4 to 9 delegates depending on how strong the Democratic vote for president was in 2008 and 2012. Another 105 delegates are available statewide, with 53 pledged party leaders and elected officials (PLEOs) and 5 unpledged PLEOs. [Note to Bernie-bots: you start with a 47-delegate deficit from California’s pledged PLEOs (usually known as super-delegates) already in Hillary’s camp.]
So, for Dems, where the vote comes from matters. For example, in Los Angeles County, Clinton leads Sanders 51-41%. But in the Bay Area, it’s a virtual tie, at 44% each. While Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s 12th CD in San Francisco will have 9 delegates, Republican David Valadao’s 21st CD in the San Joaquin Valley has just four. So let’s get those office pools going on who wins how Hillary and Bernie split the delegates.
For the Republicans it’s simpler, but stranger: three delegates per CD, regardless of how many Republicans reside or vote in a district. To use the same example, whoever wins Pelosi’s overwhelmingly Democratic district gets the same number of delegates as the first-place finisher on Valadao’s GOP-dominated turf. Go figure.
It’s also a mixed picture by region. In LA County, for example, Cruz leads Trump 40-29%, but in the rest of Southern California Trump leads 45-23%. And in the Bay Area, Kasich, although still trailing, pulls almost a quarter of the vote.
The poll also asked GOP voters how they would feel if either Trump or Cruz were to become their party’s nominee for president. The results indicate that relatively large proportions of this state’s Republicans – greater than one in three – would not be satisfied in either case. Were Trump to win the nomination 58% of GOP voters say they would be enthusiastic or satisfied with him as the Republican nominee, but 38% would be upset or dissatisfied. If Cruz were to become the GOP nominee, 61% would be enthusiastic or satisfied and 34% would be upset or dissatisfied.
And this from Mark about the Democrats:
Greater than seven in ten likely voters in California’s Democratic presidential primary hold positive views of both Democratic contenders. For Clinton, 70% say they have a favorable impression of her, while 27% offer a negative assessment. Sanders’ profile among Democratic primary voters is even more positive, with 75% viewing him favorably and 16% unfavorably.
However, in the current poll Sanders is viewed much more favorably by voters currently backing Clinton, than Clinton is among supporters of Sanders. Clinton backers offer a more than two-to-one positive assessment of Sanders (61% to 26%). By contrast, Sanders’ supporters hold mixed views of Clinton, with 50% rating her positively and 47% negatively.
Statewide polling, as we’ve seen from PPIC, the LA Times and Field, is useful to understand the general shape of things in California. But as it has morphed over the years, California’s primary process is anything but a straightforward contest.
Instant history: Loyal Calbuzzers are well aware that California’s first presidential popular primary election occurred in 1912, when insurgent Theodore Roosevelt body slammed the considerable body of President William Taft 55 to 27 percent (shout-out to Progressive reformer Bob La Follette at 18 percent) and, along the way, picked up state governor Hiram Johnson as his running mate. Great primary, which your Calbuzzards covered by telegraph and pack mule.
At the time, party bosses still controlled the process, and California was one of only eight direct primaries in the nation; Roosevelt staked his nomination claim on widespread success in those contests, but the hacks prevailed in renominating Taft, triggering TR’s walkout and famous failed third-party bid.
(Secret memo to Republicans itching for an “open convention” this time: While all this was really exciting, it handed the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson; see “Bull Moose Party” before booting Trump.)
California since has mostly maintained its spot late in the primary schedule; in recent years, state lawmakers tried moving it earlier — most notably in 2008, when Clinton’s win over Barack Obama in February helped sustain her campaign for months — but at $100 million, the experiment was too expensive, as a second primary still was held in June for state and local candidates.
There are other examples of California playing a key role: Robert Kennedy’s Democratic win in 1968 is iconic because he was assassinated moments after declaring victory, and favorite-son governor Ronald Reagan’s stomping of President Gerald Ford boosted him into the 1976 Republican convention, the last one not settled on the first ballot.
On the other hand, when it comes to November, California’s big bloc of 55 electoral votes really will matter. Except that the state hasn’t voted for a right-to-life candidate at the top of the ticket since George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. There’s virtually no chance that will change in 2016.
Bottom lines: So, with her huge lead in pledged and super delegates, Clinton remains the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination and is thus likely to crush either Trump or Cruz in a general election in California, the Field Poll found.
Clinton beats Trump 59-31% in California and she wins over Cruz 55-32%. It’s Clinton over Trump 84-10% among Democrats and 64-24% among independents. Trump wins Republicans 70-16%. Over Cruz, Clinton wins 81-9% among Democrats and 55-31% among independents, with Cruz taking Republicans 69-13%.
But subgroups are brutal: It’s Clinton over Trump 73-19% among Latinos, 82-11% among blacks and 62-25% among Asians, not to mention 52-28% among whites. Not only does Clinton lead Trump 51-40% among men, but she kills him among women 67-22%. No doubt that’s partly because the misogynistic Trump suffers an unfavorable rating of 80% among women with just 15% favorable. It’s worse among Latinos – 83-11% unfavorable.
Sorry Donald: “the Hispanics” do not love you.
The Field Poll surveyed 1,400 registered voters in California March 24 – April 4 in English and Spanish. The survey included 584 respondents likely to vote in the state’s June Democratic presidential primary election and 558 Republicans likely to vote in the Republican primary. The maximum sampling error for results from the registered voter sample is ± 3.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level and is ± 4.0 percentage points for the likely Democratic and Republican primary voter samples.