Can California Republicans avoid the disaster that the Donald Trump candidacy and their own collapsing party registration suggest is in store for them next week?  The latest statewide polling suggests that maybe they just might, but it is a very uncertain maybe.

Since California has very little ticket splitting, GOP candidates must depend on the top of the ticket doing at least well enough in their districts that they won’t be swamped.  A week ago it looked like the fading Trump candidacy would carry huge numbers of Republicans down to defeat.  A poll by the Hoover Institution at Stanford showed Trump getting only 30 percent of the vote, thus putting him behind Alf Landon in 1936 whose 32 percent against President Franklin Roosevelt was the historic low for GOP candidates in this state. 

But a Survey USA poll – and this poll has been accurate for California – shows Trump getting 35 percent, and that is a slight improvement for him over their earlier polls.  The most recent Field Poll shows Trump at 33 percent and Hillary Clinton at 53 percent.  That’s a 20 point edge, but President Obama won California in 2008 and 2012 with 61 and 60 percent, so Clinton is slightly underperforming Obama in this state.

That’s important.  In both 2008 and 2012, John McCain and Mitt Romney received 37 percent in California.  They were of course swamped in heavily Democratic areas like the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles but they ran well enough in the more marginal areas that GOP legislators and members of Congress managed to survive.

Consider, for example, the four Republican held Congressional districts Democrats are going after this year.  In Rep. Jeff Denham’s 10th District around Modesto, Romney got 47 percent in 2012 and Denham 53 percent.  In Rep Steve Knight’s 25th district, in the Antelope Valley Romney got 50 percent, and the GOP congressman got 55 percent.  In Rep. David Valadeo’s 21st District in Fresno and Bakersfield, Romney got only 44 percent, but Valadeo far outran him with 58 percent.  In San Diego’s 49th District, where once safe Rep. Darrell Issa is struggling to hold on, Romney got 52 percent and Issa 58 percent.

The same is true in the dozen or so GOP-held legislative districts Democrats are targeting this year; Romney ran well enough in them that the Republican incumbents won their seats.  Trump has to run somewhere in the neighborhood of 37 percent statewide and lose to Clinton by no more than 23 points for these numerous endangered Republicans to survive.

Trump’s numbers have risen nationally over the past ten days, and he may be doing slightly better in California.  If that is the case, the Democratic strategy of tying GOP congressmen and legislators to Trump may not work.

But there are another set of numbers and they suggest exactly the massive GOP defeats next week that many people have predicted.   These are the early mail in ballots.

As of Thursday, the early votes, as reported by Political Data Inc., showed that 3.8 million ballots are already at the country election offices.  Of these 46 percent are Democratic, 32 percent are Republican.  But in 2012 at this point 3.1 million ballots were in and they broke down 43 percent Democratic ballots and 36 percent Republican ballots.

So Republicans are behind their 2012 percentages, with a swing to the Democrats of seven percent among returned ballots.  This swing to the Democrats is also apparent in virtually every contested legislative and congressional district.  The early vote tends to be older and whiter than the Election Day vote, so this should be a Republican strength, but this year it does seem to be the case.

It could be that Republicans are simply staying home out of disgust for Trump and lack of a GOP U.S. Senate candidate.  Republican registration has fallen by three percentage points since 2012, to an historic low of just 26 percent.  So it is not out of the question that the Republican Party in California could simply be obliterated this year and fall to the lowest level of elected Republicans in history.

We will know a week if that has happened.  But the two factors most relevant in Republican survival in the 2016 election is how well Trump actually does in the GOP districts and whether Republican voters do decide to participate.  In the end, those will be the deciding factors.