Having said that, it's no surprise that Cruz is showing in the mid-30s. California Democrats have a history of playing the field early in campaigns and then “coming home” once their party leaders make clear what’s at stake. That’s exactly what is happening now. I expect Cruz to show in the mid-30s, possibly around 40, in the other polls as they roll out in the weeks ahead. I don’t think he can get much higher than that, and I think it is very possible that his final vote total will be several points less than is reported in the polls leading up to the election.I think the polls are showing the rock solid Democratic votes that are going all for Bustamente. The question is whether he can do something to pull in more voters than simply the base. Also, the Republican vote is moving around now as voters wait to see if McClintock has a chance or is just pulling Arnold down and guaranteeing a Democratic victory.
One reason: because voter turnout is going to be higher than most people expect, and very few of the last-minute voters, the occasional voters, are going to go for Cruz. They are underrepresented in the polls and will be until Election Day. Another reason, and one that you won’t hear much about in the mainstream media: I think there might be an unspoken ethnic factor. Just as in 1982, when LA Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American, was leading in the polls just before the election and then lost to George Deukmejian, I think some percentage of white Democrats will flee from Cruz at the moment of truth because of angst over immigration and the increasing power of Hispanics in California. If Gray Davis signs a bill allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, this backlash will be even more likely. There is no way to measure whether this exists or how big it might be, but it’s out there, and it’s possible. It’s also possible that it will be balanced out by a surge of new Latino voters expressing ethnic pride, with new voters rushing to the polls to support one of their own. But both possible factors are just more reasons not to trust the polls.
Anyway, given the shape of the race at this moment, I expect Cruz to finish at around 37 percent, give or take a few points. Can Arnold, or any other Republican, top that? I think so. I still think it is Arnold’s to win or lose, depending on the kind of campaign he runs. If he nurtures the incredible natural excitement that is out there for him to tap, he will do fine. If he starts looking like just another politician, changing his stands on controversial issues, ducking questions and debates, attacking his opponents, then he will stall out. It might actually help him to be seen as the underdog. I think there was some resentment about his frontrunner status early in the race. People wondered what he had done to deserve such an exalted position. The media trained their guns on him. Now he can go about trying to earn the people’s trust, rather than taking it for granted. And if the next public poll shows him gaining on Cruz, Arnold can use that as part of his storyline. It’s possible, in other words, that Cruz has peaked too soon.
I think too much emphasis is being put on getting other candidates to drop out of the Republican race. Arnold was probably better off with both Simon and McClintock in, because they were splitting the conservative vote. It made them both look unviable. If they had both stayed in for another month, much of their support would have gradually drifted toward Arnold. Now McClintock has new fire and energy and might start to creep up toward Arnold in the polls. And that would change the entire dynamic of the race. Also, the talk about narrowing the field makes Arnold look weak. A strong candidate just runs his campaign and assumes that the people will listen and make the “right choice.” A weak one has to force people out of the campaign so that voters have fewer choices.
Besides, I don’t think McClintock is dropping out, at least not anytime soon. He believes deeply in what he is doing, and believes that this is the moment to turn California around. He is running on 20 years of experience and focus on California fiscal and economic issues. This is his big chance, and he is not going to walk away from it. If, a few weeks before the election, he is at 10 and Arnold’s at 35, maybe McClintock will drop out and endorse him. But if he does so, it will only happen once he is convinced that he has absolutely no chance to win. And it will come at the moment when his leverage over Arnold is at its peak. That is not the case right now. If Arnold is smart he will put out positive feelers to Tom, not threats, and make McClintock know that when or if the time comes, Arnold will be grateful for his support.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Dan Weintraub has some trenchant analysis of what the polls mean in California. Not much.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 1:18 PM