Let’s be clear that the Golden State isn’t going anywhere on the Electoral College map. No Republican presidential candidate has won California since 1988, and none have even come close. Donald Trump doesn’t poll any better than Mitt Romney’s 37% showing in the 2012 election cycle — in fact, so far he’s not even getting to that level, with an RCP average of 31.7%. California has transformed from a battleground state to as deep-blue as it gets in a generation.
So why do Hillary Clinton’s numbers keep dropping?
Though Clinton is still running 17 percentage points ahead of Donald Trump in this heavily Democratic state, her advantage has fallen 7 percentage points from July, according to a new survey by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s image rating has dropped sharply, with a majority of likely voters in California – 53 percent – now viewing her unfavorably, according to the poll. …
Clinton’s declining numbers in California, where the race is unlikely to be contested, are electorally less significant than in other states. But her backslide suggests a deepening disaffection with her campaign. Clinton and her husband, Bill, spent decades building a massive donor and political network in the state, with Hillary Clinton posting relatively favorable public approval ratings since her time as first lady and prevailing in primary elections in 2008 and in June.
The other 17% get evenly split between Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Undecided. That’s interesting in itself. A temporary Hillary slide should probably show up as a bump in support for Johnson and maybe Stein. Yet they’re barely showing up in this poll — an online poll, by the way — at 6% and 5% respectively. For Johnson, that’s below his national average of 8.4%.
Even more interestingly, while Hillary leads by 14 among independents, she only gets to 38%. Both Johnson and Stein get 13% of the vote, while 12% have no preference at all. Hillary does relatively well with younger voters in California despite having issues in those demos nationally, but does progressively worse in each of the other age demos. Seniors support Trump 47/44. The split among Hispanics essentially mirrors the national numbers, 61/21, but Hillary has a plurality of white voters, 44/38.
That latter demo shows why Trump has no chance to win in California, by the way. Romney won white voters in California 53/45 on his way to a massive loss. But Trump’s non-existent chances in the Golden State aren’t the issue in this poll, and neither are California’s electoral votes.
The real issue is this: Why is Hillary dropping in a state that should be the friendliest turf for her? One has to believe that Robby Mook’s don’t-panic memo hoped to pre-empt that question. If Hillary has lost this much traction in two months in California, then her slide in the rest of the country looks very real, and probably very frightening for Democrats. That slide may not matter in California, where Democrats have a huge advantage built-in for its presidential and state-wide candidates. It will matter a lot more in places like Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, and perhaps even Pennsylvania where that built-in advantage doesn’t exist.
As pollster Mark DiCamillo tells the Sacramento Bee, “She’s now at a lower standing with California voters than she was at the beginning of the convention, which is obviously cause for concern.” If it doesn’t turn around soon, it might be cause for panic, Mook’s memo notwithstanding.