California Statewide Poll - Week 4

The race for Governor tightens with Cox remaining in the hunt and the race for School Superintendent begins with an advantage for Marshall Tuck but remains wide open. Kavanaugh opposition grows slightly while his supporters remain steadfast.

The fourth week of conducting our weekly California survey reveals voters’ attitudes toward impeachment flipping despite a steady Trump approval.

Governor’s Race

The race for Governor has tightened leaving Gavin Newsom with a 5 point advantage this week and Cox picking up 3 points. Undecideds remain the same at 5%. Cox solidified his support shoring up nearly 90% of Republicans and the fight for No-Party-Preference voters is tied at 44.5% Cox to 45.8% Newsom.

  • Gavin Newsom: 50%
  • John Cox: 45%
  • Unsure: 5%

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: Cox is having a better week especially considering the fact that Newsom’s television campaign is going strong throughout California’s expensive media markets. Several points are attributable to Cox’s gains this week: he’s solidifying the Republican base as his paid advertising campaign on radio begins to gain traction with the electorate and Cox has managed to evenly split the coveted No Party Preference (NPP) vote.

As we’ve said before Cox has a math problem: capturing 100% of the undecided vote is nearly impossible so he will have to pull Newsom back several points and disproportionately win the war with NPP voters. 50/50 splitting the NPP’s will not be enough. From our perspective Cox has two fundamental challenges: robustly introduce himself to the electorate and build a positive profile to insulate himself from attack and secondly, go negative on Newsom immediately. Currently Cox’s radio ad is a contrast piece at 70/30 positive to negative. Cox needs a dedicated message arch of negative ads against Newsom painting him as a self-interested, elitist politician who has a checkered past and will only make California worse, not better. Trouble is this requires a massive amount of campaign dollars. Cox’s campaign to date has not shown itself to have the war chest necessary to run a statewide paid media effort.

Newsom’s team is likely seeing similar tracking numbers and while they shouldn’t be pressing the panic button, this race is tighter than it should be at this point. Our recommendation is that Newsom go negative on Cox to brand him as Donald Trump’s long lost brother. Two peas in a pod. Effectively aiming to tether Cox’s vote share to Trump’s approval number at 39%. We anticipate that Newsom will go negative and soon to ensure Cox’s growth remains stunted. While the risk of attacking down is that Newsom will elevate Cox’s name ID, that risk is worth it as Newsom can quickly disqualify Cox from being in the consideration set of the undecideds and swing voters.

Lt. Gov. Race

This race remains tied within the margin of error. The undecideds grew to 54% this week.

  • Eleni Kounalakis: 24%
  • Ed Hernandez: 22%
  • Unsure: 54%

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: With such a large undecided this race remains wide open for the campaign who defines themselves and their opponent first. The first campaign up on the paid airwaves who can sustain a robust saturation level will likely win this race.

Insurance Commissioner Race

The race for Insurance Commissioner showed Ricardo Lara losing 3 points of support that moved back into the undecided bucket.

  • Steve Poizner: 45%
  • Ricardo Lara: 37%
  • Unsure: 15%

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: Poizner remains well positioned to prevail in this race. If he runs an advertising campaign growing his support with No Party Preference and Republicans voters he will crack the 50% threshold and put this race away. Lara’s challenge is twofold: create a positive profile for himself with the electorate and brand Poizner as a right wing Republican. Both tasks require large amounts of money that Lara does not have. He will likely be dependent on outside groups and unions to do the communication for his campaign.

Trump Impeachment

Californians have soured on impeaching President Trump this week favoring not to impeach 46% to 41%.

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This impeachment number seems to bounce all over depending on the news cycle. With numbers this volatile and mostly evenly split the Democrats are not wise to jump on the impeachment bandwagon just yet unless they are a candidate positioning themselves to be a 2020 contender like Senators Harris or Booker.

State Superintendent

We find that the race for State Superintendent is wide open at 54% undecided with Marshall Tuck beginning with a clear initial advantage.

  • Tony Thurmond: 17%
  • Marshall Tuck: 29%
  • Unsure: 54%

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: This race starts out with an advantage for Tuck as well as a large undecided population. Tuck’s initial ballot advantage is likely a results of lasting name ID from prior campaigns. This race will likely come down to spending levels. As with prior cycles it was a battle between the pro charter movement and teachers unions. We’ll be watching this race closely as the ad wars begin to move the undecideds.

Kavanaugh Confirmation

With multiple weeks tracking this question we have revealed the undecideds moving gradually into opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Editorial from Strategist John Thomas: Despite the barrage of partisan attacks, supporters of Judge Kavanaugh remain stalwart not having left his side since last week’s judicial committee hearing. We will track this number closely to see if an FBI reports moves the electorate’s position.

Methodology Statement: Between 9/21-9/23, we surveyed 1,068 modeled likely midterm voters in California via IVR, landline only. Likely voters were defined as registered voters having voted in the 2010 and 2014 midterm general elections, or in the 2016 primaries, plus the 15% additional most likely to turnout in the 2018 general based on in-house turnout score modeling. Margin of error varies by question and segment but is generally +/- 3.5% for topline results. Sample was weighted by age, gender, party, and DMA. Results were then re-balanced after processing results based on these same cohorts to account for differential response rates.

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