In September, I wrote a critical article on the Los Angeles Times/USC Poll questioning the poll’s methodology. I found it to be too heavily weighted to Democratic voters.
The Times/USC Poll is out with its October version. Once again I have looked at the methodology. The new poll shows Jerry Brown leading Meg Whitman by 13 points, and Barbara Boxer leading Carly Fiorina by eight points. While these are somewhat greater margins for the Democratic candidates than other October polls, at least the October methodology seems to have improved over September.
The reason for this large lead is the poll’s contention that independent voters and "soft" Republicans are abandoning the top GOP candidates. We cannot know if this is the case until the votes are actually cast, but this certainly does not conform to what we are seeing elsewhere in the country.
The Whitman campaign has howled that this poll is flawed because it was done by a Democratic firm, Greenberg Quinlan, but in fact it is a joint poll down by this firm American Viewpoint, a respected Republican firm.
The poll has a complicated turnout model, but for analysis purposes the important thing is the Democratic to Republican turnout ratio. The poll shows that 44 percent of voters will be Democrats, 40 percent Republican and 17 percent independents/others. In 2006, the turnout ratio was 45 percent Democratic, 42 percent Republican, ten percent independent, so this ratio is not far off. The October poll shows that Latinos will make up 16 percent of the turnout; in 2006 they were 12 percent. The Latino numbers may be a bit high, but we will have to wait and see.
But more important are the internals of the Latino vote. Whitman is receiving just 23 percent of Latinos, Fiorina just 24 percent. By contrast, both are running even or ahead among white voters. I will repeat what I have written over and over: no Republican can win, and no Republican ever has won, without one third of the Latino vote. Neither Whitman nor Fiorina are coming close.
Why? Like a Halloween corpse, Steve Poizner is rising from the dead; now we are seeing the disastrous effect of his xenophobic anti-immigrant campaign in the spring; both Republicans are sinking where they need Latino voters.
There are other reasons place more confidence in this poll than the one in September; it shows Republican Steve Cooley five points ahead of Democrat Kamala Harris for attorney general. This is consistent with other polling, and the LA Times/USA poll credits his strong showing in Los Angeles County for his lead. It also shows Democrat Gavin Newsom five points ahead of Republican incumbent Abel Maldonado for lieutenant governor. That is also consistent with other polls. Unlike Cooley, Maldonado does not have enough money for a statewide television campaign, and so this race is following party registration.
But the most important finding in this poll, again consistent with other polls, is that GOP candidates are winning only the Republican base vote. Republicans are 40 percent of likely voters in this poll, but Whitman is getting only 39 percent against Brown, and Fiorina is pulling just 42 percent against Boxer. The only explanation for this is that independents are breaking heavily toward the Democrats. That is not found anywhere else in the country; in virtually every other state independents are breaking toward the GOP.
If this Democratic lead among independents is not reversed in the next week, we are going to see a result never before seen in American politics; a vast national Republican landslide that stops at the California state line.