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Poll shows California is a hard sell for 'tea party' movement

"Tea party" conservatives have captured the political momentum so far this year in Republican primaries nationwide. In Florida, for example, the sitting governor, Charlie Crist, has fallen well behind a tea party favorite, Marco Rubio, in the race for a U.S. Senate seat. But in California, the closest thing to a tea party candidate, Orange County Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, has languished in distant third place in the running for the GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat.

Both former Hewlett Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina and former Congressman Tom Campbell have consistently outpaced DeVore. A new Los Angeles Times/USC poll may explain why. Asked if it was important for their candidate to be a "true conservative" -- DeVore's definition, by any standard -- Republican primary voters edged against that notion. Fifty-one percent said it was only somewhat or not at all important, while a lesser 46% said it was extremely or very important.

Asked separately whether their nominee should be conservative -- or, alternately, more centrist candidates who could appeal broadly in November -- Republican primary voters also showed signs of pragmatism. Forty-six percent sided with a more centrist candidate, while 42% said conservative. The poll showed that Boxer is in better shape than some earlier surveys had suggested, and that she stands to benefit from the recently-approved healthcare bill. Against a generic Republican, Boxer had a comfortable lead. Campbell led Whitman on the GOP side, 29% to 25%, with DeVore at 9%.

In the race for governor, Republican Meg Whitman was trouncing her primary opponent, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. And the former EBay chief had a narrow lead on the presumptive Democratic nominee, former governor and current Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. In both races, nonpartisan voters -- those who register as "decline-to-state" in California -- were flexing their muscles. In the general election they were siding with Whitman, and in the Senate contest they were loyal to Boxer. The poll results are available here.

-- Cathleen Decker

 
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