Despite setting a record for campaign spending, Republican Meg Whitman is trailing Jerry Brown by a significant margin according to the newest PPP poll.
PPP (PDF) (9/14-16)
Jerry Brown (D) 47
Meg Whitman (R) 42
Even though Brown is not particularly popular, he is at least more popular than Whitman. From Tom Jensen:
[A] plurality of voters in the state view him in a negative light with 42% seeing him favorably and 45% unfavorably. Republicans (86%) are much more strong in their dislike of Brown than Democrats (69%) are in their favor and independents split against him by a 30/55 margin as well.
Whitman, however, is even more unpopular. Only 35% of voters view her in a positive light with 49% seeing her negatively.
Given how much of her own fortune Whitman has spent so far, it is hard to imagine what her campaign could possibly do to improve her favorable numbers at this point.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s extreme unpopularity in the state appears to be a real drag on Whitman. Much like the bad economy nationally has voters wanting to change the party that controls Washington, it seems the same dynamic is playing out in California for the position of governor.
Dems Benefit from CA’s Unique Lack of Enthusiasm Gap
Brown and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) are lucky to be running in one of the few states not suffering from the huge Democratic enthusiasm gap, which is killing Democrats in other places (see: Russ Feingold in Wisconsin). However, I doubt it is because Brown or Boxer’s campaigns are really firing up the base. It could be anger against local Republicans, like Schwarzenegger, is driving Democratic engagement and/or Republican disengagement.
It is also possible that having Proposition 19–the initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana–on the ballot is giving some younger Democratic-leaning surge voters a specific reason to vote in this non-presidential election in California, but not other states. PPP found 18-29 year olds backing Boxer and Brown by a nearly two-to-one margin in their respective races. Even a minor increase in youth turnout would help both candidates noticeably.