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Field poll says things are getting worse for McCain in California

July 16, 2008 |  2:42 pm

For those still harboring hopes that California will be hotly contested in the November presidential election, it’s time for a pity party.

The latest statewide poll, conducted by the Field organization, shows Democrat Barack Obama extending his lead in the state and now trouncing Republican John McCain by 24 points, 54% to 30%. In May, Obama’s lead was a smaller 17 points, and in January, an even slighter 7 points.

The Field poll, conducted July 8-14, also demonstrated an enthusiasm gap in California: 51% of Obama’s supporters said they were very enthusiastic about him, whereas only 17% of McCain’s made the same claim.

Obama led strongly among  Democrats, and McCain held a less-dominant lead among Republicans. But among the nonpartisan voters highly coveted by candidates, Obama led 64% to 18%.

McCain has repeatedly stated that he will contest the state in the general election. But most political observers believe that vow reflects a desire to keep voters and donors happy rather than any serious intention to compete in California, where running statewide ads costs millions of dollars per week that can be more optimistically spent elsewhere. Only 32.5% of the state’s voters are registered as Republicans, according to the most recent voter statistics.

Until 1992, California was reliably Republican in presidential contests. Bill Clinton that year became the first Democrat to win the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But changes in the state’s voting pool, including a rise in moderate voters that coincided with a conservative streak in GOP nominees, turned the state toward the Democrats.

In 2004, Democrat John Kerry beat George W. Bush by 10 points.

The state is hardly homogeneous, however, as the Field poll showed again. Coastal voters, for example, favored Obama 62% to 24%, whereas inland residents backed McCain by a 44%-35% margin. Unfortunately for McCain, inland voters make up less than one-third of the electorate.

Still, Obama won almost all demographic groups, including 51% of men to McCain’s 35%, and 56% of women to McCain’s 27%. He won overwhelming margins among Asian, black and Latino voters, and won white voters by 47% to 37%. Women and Latinos had powered Hillary Clinton's victory over Obama in the February California presidential primary.

-- Cathleen Decker

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