Coast Vote Shows Democrats Sagging in the Polls, a Warning Sign for November, as GOP Gains Among Minorities

The Golden State seems to be losing its hold on Americans’ imagination.

AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez
Governor Newsom at Antioch, California, on August 11, 2022. AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez

Last week’s Super Tuesday results ensured the nominations of President Trump and President Biden, barring some unanticipated adverse health events. So, who’s going to win in November?

Polls give us clues. Mr. Trump has the small but persistent lead in public polls he has maintained since November 2023 — in contrast to the 2016 and 2020 cycles, in which he often trailed in national and target state polls.

Yet polls are only one indicator. Actual votes are another. And we’ve had one contest this year that provides important clues to the November vote: the California primary.

Primary voters in California, like those in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas, have voted not just for president but also for members of Congress and — in North Carolina — governor and statewide officials. Those contests may draw turnout from voters with little motivation to participate in seemingly already decided presidential primaries.

And California, unlike those states but like Louisiana and Washington, has, except at the presidential level, all-party primaries, in which the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general election.

The results of all-party primaries in many but not all cases turn out to be good forecasts of the general election. For example, Washington State’s 1994 results presaged the defeat of Speaker Foley and the first Republican majority in the House in 40 years.

It’s true that this year’s California primary came eight months before the November election, and in eight months, events can surprise and opinions can change. Only today’s polls are subject to the same caveat.

The big news from California is that, with 85 percent of the votes counted — high-tech California counts slowly — Democratic support is sagging a bit. With no viable opposition in the state to Messrs. Biden or Trump, Democrats cast 59 percent of presidential votes and Republicans 39 percent. That’s down from the state’s 63 percent to 34 percent margin for Mr. Biden ahead of Mr. Trump in 2020.

Similarly, in the all-party primary for the Senate, Democrats got 59 percent of the votes and Republicans 39 percent. That’s down from Senator Padilla’s 61 percent to 39 percent margin in 2022 and Senator Feinstein’s 63 percent to 37 percent in the last Democratic-Republican runoff in 2012. It’s nearly the same as Governor Newsom’s 59 percent to 41 percent re-election in 2022 but weaker than his 62 percent to 38 percent victory in 2018.

Those numbers don’t mean difficulty for Mr. Biden in carrying California’s 52 electoral votes or for Congressman Adam Schiff, who is Congress’s chief propagator of the Russia collusion hoax, in replacing Feinstein in the Senate.

Only it does suggest gains for Republicans in congressional and state legislative districts, and it does lend credence to polling data, reviewed last month in this space, showing Mr. Trump and Republican gains among Hispanic and Asian voters.

This year, Republicans won majorities in 13 districts to Democrats’ 39, a vast improvement on the 46 to seven Democratic margin in 2018 when, in reaction against Mr. Trump, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi won back the House majority and the speaker’s chair.

Republican incumbents in three heavily Hispanic and Asian seats who were elected with 51 percent in 2022 got between 55 percent and 56 percent of primary votes this year. And Republicans won between 43 percent and 49 percent of primary votes in nine other districts, seven of them heavily Hispanic. Most of those seats aren’t seriously contested this year, but most may be in years to come.

As Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini argues in his book “Party of the People,” non-college-educated Hispanic people, Asian people, and Black people with conservative views are voting increasingly Republican, like non-college-educated white people.

California has seen something like this before. Over the last three generations, the state has been populated by two brief but enormous surges of migration of — to oversimplify — Midwesterners from 1946 to 1973 and Mexicans from 1982 to 2007. The Midwesterners provided majorities first for Governor Brown liberals and, after riots at Berkeley and Watts, for President Reagan conservatives. Midwestern migrants enabled Republicans to hold the governorship in six of eight elections from 1966 to 1994.

Mexican voters entered the voting ranks more slowly. Yet in this century, they, together with liberal white college graduates at the San Francisco Bay Area and Westside of Los Angeles, have made once-marginal California solidly Democratic. Just as settled-in Midwesterners soured on liberals’ 1960s policies, so settled-in Mexicans seem to be souring on this generation’s liberal excesses.

Gentry liberals’ high turnout will probably keep California Democratic, but Republican trending in lower-turnout Mexican areas will reduce their ranks in Congress well below Ms. Pelosi’s highs.

Meanwhile, California has been losing population, down 538,000 between 2020 and 2023, even as it lost one House seat in the reapportionment following the 2020 census. Migration from Mexico halted during the 2007-2008 housing crunch, and today’s illegal immigrants are surging toward Texas, not California.

California bitterly clings to much of the high-tech and entertainment industries, but it seems to be losing its hold, in the days of Reagan, on the imaginations of most immigrants and Americans alike.

The New York Sun

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