Obama Now Takes California in a Landslide over Clinton

Ever since the Feb 5th Super Tuesday primary, I have spent a lot of time explaining why Clinton won California by 9 points when many other indicators at the time seemed to be pointing towards an Obama victory. One simple factor was time.

California has the size and complexity to be a nation into itself. Its economy alone consistently rates in the top half dozen or so in the world. So big sea-changes in public opinion take longer to get carried out than in a small state like Iowa or New Hampshire or almost any other state, for that matter.

To the average voter, Obama appeared on the national scene in the blink of an eye compared to the institutional name-brand Clinton. His national prominence after his Iowa caucus win in early January left about a month for the 36 million Californians to figure him out. In that month the trends lines between Clinton and Obama support kept converging, hers sinking and his rising, but on the day of the election, a gap remained. He lost by 9 points. The nation turned to other state contests.

But those support trend lines did not stop their trajectory. Now, four months later, Californian Democrats overwhelmingly support Obama over Clinton by a landslide margin of 51 percent to 38 percent, according to the non-partisan Field Poll, the gold standard of California polls. Here are some other findings from the San Fransico Chronicle report:

In a head-to-head contest with presumed GOP nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama does as well as Clinton, both of them beating the Republican by 17 points among a cross section of voters likely to cast ballots in November. Obama also leads McCain 59 to 24 percent among critical decline-to-state or independent voters, who make up 20 percent of the California electorate, the poll showed….

The poll shows that while Clinton still leads Obama among three categories of voters - those over 65, those with a high school education or less and those earning less than $40,000 a year - Obama now bests the former first lady in all other age, educational groups and income levels…

In breakdowns among voters by ethnicity, Clinton leads only among Latinos - by more than 2-1 - though Obama is ahead among white non-Hispanics by a whopping 56-34 percent, among African Americans by a huge 76-13 percent and favored by Asians by 56-33.

Even women, who formed a critical base for Clinton in this state, now back Obama 49 to 41 percent, the poll shows.

It looks like California, like the nation as a whole, has had time to absorb this newcomer Obama and adjust to the new politics around him. The result does not bode well for Clinton, and certainly not for McCain.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute
From my outpost in San Francisco