Feinstein losing ground in CA Senate race?

Has the Brett Kavanaugh debacle impacted Dianne Feinstein’s polling in California’s Senate race? Something appears to have dented her standing, but as Politico notes, challenger Kevin de Léon still has a long way to go to catch up:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has seen her advantage in her race against state Sen. Kevin de León chopped in half since July. But she still maintains a commanding, double-digit lead in her bid for a fifth full term, despite being the recent target of bipartisan criticism regarding her handling of sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

That’s according to a new poll released Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California, which tracked the high-profile race between Feinstein, 85, and de León, 50, the progressive Democrat who authored California’s controversial “sanctuary state” bill. The survey showed Feinstein leading de León by 11 points among likely voters — 40 percent to 29 percent — with 8 percent still undecided.

While still robust, that margin over de León, who won the endorsement of the California Democratic Party’s executive board earlier this year, has shrunk markedly since July, when Feinstein led by a whopping 22 points — 46 to 24 percent.

That’s not a large shift, when viewed from the perspective of each candidate’s movement. Feinstein lost six points, while de Léon picked up five. That’s a bit outside the margin of error in both cases, but it’s not a huge move — and it still leaves Feinstein with a double-digit lead over her fellow Democrat. Feinstein is holding 60% of Democrats who want to vote in the race.

Still, Feinstein might need to get a little concerned about that erosion. Incumbents are well-known to the voters, and Feinstein’s been in the Senate for decades. Only getting to 40% support among likely voters is a big red flag that an incumbent might be in trouble, especially with the general election six weeks away. Even her Real Clear Politics average level of support shows that danger at 40.7%.

Or, perhaps it’s not that much of a concern. One significant oddity is the low numbers we see for a two-person race. PPIC discovered that a high number of likely voters plan not to cast a vote at all for Senate.  Almost a quarter of all likely voters (23%) plan to take a pass, including a majority of Republicans (52%) who don’t have a candidate in the race at all. Twenty-six percent of independents will sit on their hands, too. When those voters are subtracted from the mix, Feinstein ends up leading 52/37 – a very healthy lead for an incumbent.

How much will the Kavanaugh fight have to do with Feinstein’s standing? Best guess: the more she contributes to the circus, the better off she is. Her biggest risk is in having those Republican voters come off the bench to vote for de Léon, but he’s so progressive that even revenge probably won’t work as a motivation. Feinstein has to be seen as the leader of La Résistance to split progressives and hold her seat. And so far, that just means doing exactly what she’s doing now.

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David Strom 2:31 PM on October 04, 2022
David Strom 1:31 PM on October 04, 2022