Trump establishes commanding lead in recent Golden State poll

by James Poulos | March 15, 2016 10:28 am


Donald Trump1With California’s delegate-rich primary election looming for Republicans as a possible last chance to stop Donald Trump from rolling to the nomination, Trump has established a commanding lead in the polls and a beachhead of support among the party’s California delegation in Congress.

Pollster James Lacy revealed[1] that respondents now hand Trump 38.3 percent support in the state’s closed primary, with Ted Cruz at 22.4 percent, John Kasich at 19.7 percent, and Marco Rubio at 10.1 percent.

“Voters registering an ‘undecided’ opinion were 9.6 percent,” he noted[2]. “Trump’s almost 16 percent advantage over Cruz is statistically significant and well above the margin of error of the poll, which is 4.8 percent. The poll results demonstrate that Trump’s standing among Republicans in the Golden State has grown significantly in the last two months.”

Divided loyalties

A Field survey released in January had Trump and Cruz in a dead heat, 23 percent to 25 percent, as The Hill reported[3]. Cruz has attracted the support of established Golden State conservatives such as former California party chairman Ron Nehring, who Cruz named state chairman of his campaign.

But uneasy Republicans currently holding elective office could shift swiftly to Trump to avoid losing favor with key constituencies. “House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking at a policy event hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California […], said the intensity of support for Donald Trump and depressed excitement among Democrats could boost the chances of other Republican candidates in California and the nation this fall,” the Sacramento Bee observed[4]. Faced with unfavorable long-term demographic and cultural trends, party leaders in California have strained to find ways to bring new voters into the GOP. Although Trump’s capacity to alienate conservatives has been proven time and again, some influential California Republicans could try to leverage his candidacy as a way to make inroads into default Democrats dissatisfied with the state’s Bay Area-centric liberal leadership.

From Arnold to Donald

In fact, Trump’s dominance has served as a potent reminder of California Republicans’ taste for insurgency — and celebrity. Some analysts have drawn explicit parallels between the Trump campaign and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. “There are differences of circumstance and differences of ideology, but the fact remains: Trump is paralleling Schwarzenegger’s campaign as a heavily branded, made-to-order conservative populist, and he’s succeeding,” wrote[5] Kaleb Horton in Vanity Fair. “He’s succeeding because he knows how to work and persuade huge crowds, because he’s impossible to forget, because he knows how to jump on TV and entertain millions of people, and because he has a persona so intractable that he’ll never have to worry about perception management.”

“There was a lesson in Schwarzenegger’s campaign, if you squinted through the smoke. Politics is a test, but it’s not a standardized one. There is no true-or-false section where you’re disqualified if you don’t know the difference between secretary of state and secretary of defense. The essay is 90 percent of the grade, and it’s a big, broad open question — “What does America mean to you?” — and you can succeed through sheer style. If the crowd likes it when you call people losers, you can do that forever. There is no principal’s office.”

Whereas liberal state Democrats initially viewed Schwarzenegger as someone they could work with, however, their view of Trump has become completely hostile. (Schwarzenegger recently endorsed Kasich, who has deliberately run the least confrontational campaign among the remaining contenders.) At the same time, many have been reluctant even to consider that Trump could win the White House; most polls — but not all — have shown him losing to Hillary Clinton in a head to head matchup.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently captured the anxiety in remarks at a dinner for labor organizers, the Sacramento Bee reported[6]. “If Trump were ever elected, we’d have to build a wall around California to defend ourselves from the rest of this country,” he lamented, adding quickly that he wasn’t being deadly serious. “We don’t like walls, we like bridges,” he added.

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