LOS ANGELES – Democrat Jerry Brown has moved into a narrow lead over Republican Meg Whitman in their fractious contest for California governor, while his party colleague Barbara Boxer has opened a wider margin over GOP nominee Carly Fiorina in the race for U.S. Senate, a new Los Angeles Times/USC poll has found.
The Democratic candidates were benefiting from their party’s dominance in California and the continued popularity here of President Barack Obama, who has retained most of his strength in the state even as he has weakened in other parts of the country. Support for Obama may play a key role in the Senate contest, one of a handful nationally that could determine which party wins control of the chamber.
At the same time, the survey showed, Republicans Whitman and Fiorina have yet to convince crucial groups of voters that their businesswoman backgrounds will translate into government success.
Brown, the former governor and current attorney general, held a 49 percent to 44 percent advantage among likely voters over Whitman, the billionaire former chief executive at eBay.
Boxer, a three-term incumbent, led Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard, by 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in the survey, a joint effort by the Times and the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Both Republicans were hamstrung by voters’ negative impressions of them – particularly Whitman, who has poured a national record $119 million of her own money into an advertising-heavy campaign yet has seen her unpopularity rise, the survey showed.
Still, in this year of political tumult, the Democrats were facing stiff challenges too. As they do nationally, Republicans in California held a fierce edge in enthusiasm among likely voters. The poll defined likely voters based on past voting history and enthusiasm about voting this year – a measure that projects an election turnout that is more heavily Republican than is typical in California. If the Democratic turnout ends up being even more sharply depressed, that would put the party’s candidates at risk.
Brown, for example, trailed by 12 points among those most enthusiastic about voting this year. Boxer’s lead reversed to a 17-point deficit among the most enthusiastic voters.