New polls show Fiorina and Paul fading — thanks to screwy samples; Update: SF Chronicle refuses to endorse Boxer

I linked the California poll in Headlines but I owe you a post about it because the numbers are almost certainly off. Dude, even I’m not this eeyorish:

Brown, the former governor and current attorney general, held a 49%-44% advantage among likely voters over Whitman, the billionaire former chief executive at EBay.

Boxer, a three-term incumbent, led Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard, by 51%-43% among likely voters in the survey, a joint effort by The Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences…

Most galling to Fiorina, perhaps, were the results when pollsters asked which candidate could bring the necessary change to Washington: three-term incumbent Boxer or first-time candidate Fiorina. Voters were split, 38%-40%.

But the major headwind against Fiorina may be the president. Fiorina has vowed if elected to work against the president’s agenda, yet California voters were unequivocal about their desire for a supportive senator. Among likely voters, 56% wanted Obama supported, and only 34% wanted a senator who would be an opponent.

Why doubt the numbers? Because, as political consultant Mike Murphy pointed out last night on Twitter, the sample is absurd. Including leaners, the breakdown between Democrats, independents, and Republicans was … 55/9/35. To put that in perspective for you, the exit poll sample in California from the 2008 presidential election was 42/28/30. For the Boxer/Fiorina numbers to be right, you have to believe that, in this year of the big red wave, somehow California Democrats and left-leaning indies are way more motivated to vote than they were at the height of Hopenchange with Obama at the top of the ticket. Anyone seriously believe that? That said, while the poll of polls has Fiorina within three, I’m a little worried that Boxer seems to have built a steady five- or six-point lead over the past few weeks even in polls with respectable samples. As hard as it is to believe, The One’s job approval rating in the state — even according to Rasmussen — is well over 50 percent, which makes me wonder if any Republican can win in California ever again. If 20 years of Boxer and two years of The One aren’t enough to get them to cast a protest vote, what is?

Meanwhile in Kentucky, deja vu: Once again we’ve got a Republican fading, and once again it’s thanks in part to a sample that skews more heavily towards Democrats than the last one did. Rand Paul’s 15-point lead down to … two?

According to the poll, Paul leads Conway 49 percent to 47 percent, with 4 percent undecided. That lead is well within the poll’s 4 percentage point margin of error…

The previous Bluegrass poll, released the first week of September, showed Paul leading Conway 55 percent to 40 percent…

The poll shows that Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor, still has a big advantage among men but that Conway has moved well ahead among women — pushing a 3-percentage-point lead out to a 16-point lead in less than four weeks.

Conway has also slashed into Paul’s lead among voters who earn more than $50,000 a year. Paul still leads among those voters, 51 percent to 46 percent, but his lead was 14 percentage points just a month ago and even larger shortly after the primary.

Unmentioned in the Herald-Journal’s story: The Survey USA poll that showed Paul up by 15 had a D/I/R sample of 47/10/42, which is in line with the 2008 Kentucky presidential exit poll sample of 47/15/38. Like I said up top, it stands to reason that Republican turnout will be better this year than it was two years ago. So what’s the sample in this new poll showing the race now within the margin of error? Why, it’s … 51/12/38. Once again, to believe Paul is ahead by only two, you have to believe that Democrats in Kentucky are going to turn out for Jack Conway in greater proportions than they did for Barack Obama. Ain’t happening, although it probably is true that the race has tightened since the poll that showed Paul up 15. Based on the spread here, figure it’s probably more in the neighborhood of eight points. Not a prohibitive lead, but comfortable.

Exit question: Is the wave going to help Carly? I’m starting to doubt.

Update: Turns out even the liberal editorial board of San Francisco’s flagship paper can’t quite bring themselves to support Boxer. And yet, according to the LA Times poll, Democrats will be turning out in droves for her. Okay then.

Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots. Although she is chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, it is telling that leadership on the most pressing issue before it – climate change – was shifted to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., because the bill had become so polarized under her wing.

For some Californians, Boxer’s reliably liberal voting record may be reason enough to give her another six years in office. But we believe Californians deserve more than a usually correct vote on issues they care about. They deserve a senator who is accessible, effective and willing and able to reach across party lines to achieve progress on the great issues of our times. Boxer falls short on those counts.

Boxer’s campaign, playing to resentment over Fiorina’s wealth, is not only an example of the personalized pettiness that has infected too much of modern politics, it is also a clear sign of desperation.