Calif.: Arnold's Incumbency Advantage
A new San Jose University Survey and Policy Research Institute poll on the California governor's race highlights the challenge for any politician seeking statewide office.
In head-to-head matchups between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and his two potential Democratic rivals -- state Controller Steve Westly and Treasurer Phil Angelides -- those voters saying they were "undecided/don't know" led the field. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they were undecided, compared to 30 percent who said they support Schwarzenegger and 25 percent who support Angelides. Thirty-eight percent said there were undecided when respondents were asked about a race between the Governator (28 percent) and Westly (24 percent). (Click here for a PDF of the poll.)
The ambivalence of California voters was even more noticeable when measuring where voters stand on the two Democratic primary candidates. Both Westly and Angelides, who have held statewide office for a combined 12 years, stood at 12 percent among survey respondents; 59 percent said they were undecided.
It's worth noting that most average voters in any state aren't particularly dialed into the 2006 elections at the moment. But California is the height of voter disinterest, especially on the state political level, according to Alan Hoffenblum, a Republican consultant and the publisher of the indispensable California Target Book.
"People just don't know what is going on in state government because the news media just doesn't cover it," said Hoffenblum. "[The media] covers the governor but [voters] don't know who there state controller is. They don't even know the difference between what the state controller and the state treasurer do."
Democratic media consultant Steve Murphy, a partner in Murphy Putnam Shorr & Partners, seconded Hoffenblum's assessment. "In the past the news media hasn't even covered the governor, except in the Sacramento market," said Murphy. "Now most TV stations have bureaus in the capital, but that's because of Arnold's star power."
Given California's massive size, if the news media doesn't cover something, then Californians aren't going to pay attention to it. So Westly and Angelides aren't likely to benefit from free media exposure that can benefit challengers in smaller states.
"You'd better be talking about something [the voters] care about, and doing so in an incisive way, otherwise they're not going to hear you," said Murphy.
California has 33 million people (roughly half of whom are registered voters) and 14 different media markets -- two factors that make communicating a coherent statewide message a difficult if not impossible task, not to mention expensive.
"A candidate does not exist in California until he or she is on television," said Phil Trounstine, director of the San Jose State University Survey and Policy Research Institute. That means Westly and Angelides will have to use the millions they have already raised to try to make sure California voters know their name. And even that may not be enough to overcome Schwarzenegger's advantages.
And for other candidates running statewide for downballot offices -- candidates who lack huge campaign treasuries -- the challenge is overwhelming, according to Hoffenblum. "It almost becomes a lottery," he said.
January 12, 2006; 6:10 PM ET
Save & Share: Previous: First of Many Anti-Lobbyists TV Ads?
Next: The Friday Line: Spending Big to Influence Campaign '06
Posted by: Strimling2006 | March 22, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Q | January 21, 2006 7:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | January 13, 2006 11:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jason | January 13, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MH | January 13, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: PopulistDemocrat | January 12, 2006 11:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jason | January 12, 2006 9:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jason | January 12, 2006 9:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Peter L. | January 12, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.