Less than four months after losing the California primary, Democrat Barack Obama leads Republican John McCain in projected November general election matchups, a new Los Angeles Times/KTLA Poll has found.The survey notes some additional liabilites for McCain in the Golden State, but the significance of this poll is how well McCain holds up against the Democrats on the Left Coast.
Obama, the Illinois senator who has inched close to his party's nomination, would defeat McCain by seven points if the election were held today. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, whose fortunes have faltered since her Feb. 5 drubbing of Obama in California, would eke out only a three-point victory, the poll found.
The poll appeared to illustrate that Democrats, at least in California, are gravitating toward the candidate who is broadly expected to eventually seize the party's mantle. Obama now runs better against the Arizona senator than does Clinton among many of the groups that powered her victory in the state, among them Latinos, Catholics and those without college degrees.
Although exit polls in recent primaries elsewhere have shown Clinton supporters reluctant to embrace Obama as the nominee, there was little of that sentiment evident in the California poll. But the survey could not measure whether time had eased partisan passions or whether Californians were predisposed to embrace either Democrat.
Overall, Obama led McCain 47% to 40% among registered voters, while Clinton led McCain 43% to 40%.
McCain has insisted that he will compete to win California in the fall. But California has gone to the Democrat in each of the last four presidential elections. Most of the state's political professionals consider it to be reliably Democratic -- and too expensive to prompt a full-throated effort by a Republican candidate who could amass electoral votes more cheaply elsewhere.
McCain's standing against Obama -- coming after months of good news for the Republican and a brutal and continuing Democratic primary battle -- offered the presumptive GOP nominee little solace. One bright spot was support among Latinos. McCain won 38% of Latinos against Obama and 41% against Clinton; both figures are substantially higher than the proportion won by George W. Bush in his two presidential campaigns.
Bill Clinton beat G.H.W. Bush in 1992 by 14 points, and that's after Ross Perot took 20 percent in the state, likely drawing some disaffected "Reagan Democrats" away from the GOP's 1980s' coalition.
McCain's running very strong among California's Latino's, holding a statistical tie with Obama in the survey.
Plus, the Arizona Senator does better with traditional married couples nationally, and the hot-button initiative campaign surrounding the same-sex marriage controversy may swing a few ideological fence-sitters into the GOP's column. This last variable may be a key to the race, as just a third of the state's electorate is Republican.
See, for example, "Gay Marriage Ruling Helps McCain, Hurts Obama."