The latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll has Democratic candidates Jerry Brown for governor and Barbara Boxer for U.S. Senate with narrow leads over their Republican opponents. Among likely voters, the former governor and present attorney general, Jerry Brown led former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman by 49%-44%, while incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer held an eight point advantage over Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina at 51-43%.
But, Republican voters are far more energized this year. Among most enthusiastic voters, Brown trails Whitman by 12 points, while Fiorina leads Boxer by 17 points. While the Democrats hold narrow leads, more Republican enthusiasm could spell defeat for the California Democrats in the November mid-term election.
While the poll also found a big lead for Democrats among Latino voters, the advantage is unlikely to carry over into the ballot box this year, certainly far less likely than it did in 2008, when record numbers of minority voters were turned out by Democratic campaigners to elect President Barack Obama
In another sign of waning enthusiasm on the left, The San Francisco Chronicle actually offered no endorsement in the U.S. Senate race Sunday, explaining:
It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception.
The paper opined that Barbara Boxer has been undistinguished and ineffective at pushing forward an agenda of climate change legislation, health care reform, and immigration reform, while Carly Fiorina would use her energy to actively undermine that agenda. The Chronicle went on to criticize Boxer as inaccessible, petty, and overly-partisan, and went so far as to suggest that Boxer has only maintained her seat because her opponents have been inept and underfunded.
California like many other states, has a strong anti-incumbent streak going into November as voters and newspapers grow frustrated and disappointed with the lack of change in Sacramento and Washington, DC. Which party's candidates then, are likely to win California's big, statewide races this Fall?
With polls reflecting such a close race, we can only guess that it will be whichever party successfully convinces a key swath of Independent voters that its candidates will affect real change in the three areas that make voters most anxious:
Transparency, Accountability, and Fiscal Responsibility.