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Boxer Barely Beats Generic Reep; More on Meg’s $$

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Barbara Boxer is in trouble.

The Democratic U.S. senator’s favorable-unfavorable ratio has gone from 48-39% positive in January to 38-51% negative in March. That’s a net negative shift of 22 percentage points in three months — on the basis of virtually nothing except the mood of the nation and the state.

That’s part of today’s story from the Field Poll – which Calbuzz has only because some of our subscriber friends share it with us. (Field won’t let Calbuzz subscribe.)

In general election match-ups, Boxer leads Assemblyman Chuck DeVore 45-41% and splits with former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina 45-44%. Against former U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell she’s behind within in the margin, 43-44%.

The survey might was well have asked, who would you rather have for a senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer or some random Republican?

But here’s what Boxer has to worry about: Her favorable-unfavorable among Democrats is 60-25% (luke warm); 11-84% among Republicans (as expected); but a nasty and uncomfortable 37-54% negative among non-partisans.

The Republican primary race – which has yet to see the effect of heavy-duty paid broadcast media for or against any candidate – is virtually unchanged from January. Campbell is at 28%, Fiorina is at 22% and DeVore is at 9%. Four in 10 Republicans still have no preference.

Weirdly, Campbell – who’s pro-choice, pro-gay rights and who has advocated raising gasoline taxes – holds about the same lead among Republicans who say they are strong conservatives. Among them it’s Campbell 27%, Fiorina 25% and DeVore 13%.

Clearly, Calbuzz Rule No. 3 of Politics is at play here: Nobody knows anything.

They certainly don’t know much about the GOP candidates. About six in 10 voters have no opinion about Campbell or Fiorina and about eight in 10 know nothing about DeVore. Campbell’s favorable-unfavorable – among those who have any clue who he is – is 23-18% positive; Fiorina’s is 20-22% negative and DeVore’s is 9-13% negative.

Among Republican primary voters, Campbell’s favorable is 31-13%; Fiorina’s is 24-17% and DeVore’s is 11-11%. Not much to write home about.

Boxer will get some help next month when President Obama comes out to Los Angeles to help her with fundraising. But what she really needs is a way to bring home all those moderates and non-partisans who are not naturally in her base. If she draws Fiorina or DeVore for an opponent, she can lean heavily on women and abortion rights because they’re both pro-life. But if she gets Campbell, that issue – one of Boxer’s most reliable — is a non-starter: he’s pro-choice.

More on the governor’s race polling A few points that eluded us in our first take.

1. Her money is moving voters. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is down 63-14% to former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. But she’s spent about $14 million on cable and broadcast TV, including about $4 million in the past month, and he’s put up just a paltry $800,000, according to sources close to the Poizner campaign. If Poizner begins to put up some serious ads, can those numbers move? We just don’t see how he can take her out from the right – which seems to be his play for the GOP primary. We’d like to see the ad with black-belt Steve doing karate chops on a pile of eMeg’s money.

2. Her money is moving voters II. Look at Los Angeles County, where voters don’t know Whitman except what they see on TV and where they don’t know Attorney General Jerry Brown like they do in the Bay Area. In January, while she was starting her radio ads and before her big TV buy, Brown led Whitman in the Field Poll 59-28%. But after her media blitz, Whitman led Brown 45-40%. In Los Angeles County! Which any Democrat must win in order to win statewide.

3. Her money is moving voters III. In January, before her ad blitz, Brown led Whitman 47-25% among non-partisans – voters who are not rooted in a party and who are the most likely to be swayed by advertising. After eMeg’s opening blitz, she surged ahead among non-partisans by 50-36%. Did we forget to mention that statewide California races are won by holding your base and winning the middle?

Just in case we didn’t make our point here, let’s go over it again: These are HUGE shifts in a three month period among voters who are crucial – Los Angeles County and non-partisans. Certainly, when the context is different – for example, when eMeg comes under attack from Latinos, environmentalists and labor – she may fall as quickly as Arnold Schwarzenegger did, no matter how much money she throws into the air.

But so far all we’ve seen and heard from the so-called independent expenditure folks is a lot of jaw-flapping. Show us the money.

The Field Poll surveyed 748 likely voters March 9-15 in English and Spanish, including 353 likely Republican primary voters. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 3.7% and for the GOP sample it is +/- 5.5%