Hillary drops 19 points ... in California?

Republicans shouldn’t get their hopes up on this Field poll from California, at least not in terms of competing in the Golden State. Democrats, however, may find yet another reason to hit the panic button over Hillary Clinton’s chances nearly everywhere else. Over the summer, Hillary has dropped 19 points in the Field series, and now has below 50% support in the progressive stronghold, reports David Siders for the Sacramento Bee:

Hillary Rodham Clinton remains 12 percentage points ahead of the surging Bernie Sanders, according to a new Field Poll, but her support among likely Democratic voters in California has plummeted.

The poll, released Wednesday, reflects Clinton’s weakened but still-frontrunner status nationally in the presidential primary. The California measure is striking in contrast to the overwhelming support Clinton previously enjoyed in this heavily Democratic state.

Not only has Clinton lost ground to Sanders in California, nearly two-thirds of likely Democratic voters say it would be good for the party if Vice President Joe Biden entered the race – though they would not necessarily support him.

Clinton, struggling with ongoing controversy surrounding her use of personal email while secretary of state, dropped 19 percentage points in the poll from May, to 47 percent. Sanders, who polled in single digits five months ago, shot up 26 percentage points, to 35 percent.

The one saving point for Hillary is the sample size. Although the overall sample was of 1,002 registered voters, the sample of likely Democratic primary voters was 391 — not bad for most statewide polling, but perhaps a bit thin for a state the size of California. That should produce a ±5% margin of error, again not bad, but perhaps a little less solid than other polling with larger sample sizes.

At any rate, the drop from May for Hillary falls far outside the MOE. The rise for Sanders is actually more dramatic, at 26 points from a distant 9% in May. Reuters notes the rise of dissatisfaction among California Democrats with the choices so far, and points out that Joe Biden isn’t exactly the panacea either:

The poll also found less enthusiasm for Clinton as the party’s nominee and that 63 percent of likely voters believed it would be a good thing if Vice President Joe Biden were to enter the race.

However only 15 percent of likely voters said they would back Biden in the June primary if he were to enter the race, an apparent contradiction that DiCamillo said was explained by Democrats’ frustration over a primary season that had seen their candidates overshadowed by a larger, noisier Republican race.

“What that says to me is that Democratic voters really would like the opportunity to see their candidate against any and all comers, and Biden would certainly be welcomed into race,” he said. “That might turn more attention to the Democratic primary.”

Democrats still are at almost no risk of losing California in November 2016. If they lose California, they’d probably do so on the way to a 45-state loss, and these calculations would be of little consequence. However, they point out two distinct problems, one in the state, and the other nationally. Democrats come to California not to fret over the state’s 55 electoral votes, which last went to Republicans in 1988, but to raise cash and set national narratives. California and New York are a Democratic nominee’s ATMs, both in large and small donors.

The second problem is the ebbing enthusiasm for the presumptive nominee, and the general dissatisfaction among Democratic voters. This rise in frustration bodes very ill for Democrats if Hillary wins the nomination and fails to energize these ground troops. Those dynamics will get echoed in states much less safe for Democrats, especially after eight years of Democratic control of the White House and a Clinton rerun as the only alternative. These voters may not switch to the GOP, but they may not turn out or get engaged on the ground either — and that was really the main difference for Obama in 2012.