Zogby: Mitt leads by eight in California?

Again, California isn’t winner-take-all whereas New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Arizona, where McCain has prohibitive leads, all are. But if you’re looking for something to keep Mitt in the race awhile longer, a win tomorrow in Disneyland might do it.

“Romney is widening his lead in California and has a really big advantage with conservatives,” Zogby said. “Romney winning California would give some Republicans pause when they look at McCain as the potential nominee.”

Romney said he would cut short a scheduled trip to Georgia and fly back to California on Monday for a last-minute campaign visit.

“People there are taking a real close look at the race and it looks like I’ve got a good shot there,” Romney told reporters.

Romney’s best shot in a winner-take-all state is Missouri, where’s he’s been inching closer but still trails Maverick by 5-10 points in most polls.

How to explain the tidal wave towards McCain? Ruffini reminds us that the Republican base of conservatives isn’t so vast that a slight lead among them for Mitt can’t offset a huge lead for Mac among moderates. But that only prompts the question of why Mitt’s lead even among the core is so marginal. Politico has the answer, although Karl had it before they did. It’s not about policy, it’s about character — or perceptions thereof:

In every state since New Hampshire where exit polls have asked voters what was more important, a candidate’s position on the issues or a candidate’s leadership and personal qualities, McCain has won among those who said that character mattered more than policy stances.

And he’s not just winning among voters motivated by strength of character – he’s blowing away the competition. With the exception of Michigan, he’s enjoyed a double-digit margin over his rivals among this subset. And even in Michigan, which he lost to Mitt Romney by nine points, McCain still outpaced the former Massachusetts governor by four points on the question of personal qualities versus leadership…

[His core supporters of older voters] are driven more by timeless principles of sacrifice and integrity than they are by hot-button social issues.

For these voters – and at times, it would seem, for the candidate himself – issues are almost beside the point when compared to the importance that personal qualities play in molding a potentially great president.

It’s duty, honor, and country, stupid.

The ironic punchline? It’s his character, not his policies, that’s alienated so many of his colleagues in the senate. Although of course not so terribly much that they won’t happily kiss ass if he’s the nominee. Exit question: If Kaus is right that McCain is the most dangerous candidate vis-a-vis amnesty on either side, won’t some of those senate grudges come in mighty handy in mobilizing opposition to him? That is to say, isn’t it Obama who’s the big threat on this issue, especially since he’ll be looking for a way to shore up Hispanic support ahead of 2012?