California is the biggest prize on Super Tuesday. Any Kamala Harris, Democratic Party Presidential Nominee scenario runs through her home state. Before her debate triumph, it was clear she’d need to gain nationwide to have a chance at home.
Now, with her leveling up, but Joe Biden still leading overall, we have a few post-debate Golden State polls to help us figure out how much more ground she needs to cover. As Nate Silver pointed out this week, Harris doesn’t lead in any of the first four states. If she does well, but doesn’t win any, that would roughly mirror her current position.
Would that suffice?
It’s an important question because Californians can vote early. Vote by mail begins February 3, 2020, the same day as the Iowa Caucus. It ends on the 25th, right between Nevada and South Carolina. The good news for Harris is she can’t have lost four primaries yet. Bad news is many think South Carolina is her best chance at a win.
Vote by mail is most commonly used by older, more educated voters. That’s in Kamala’s wheelhouse. Regardless of demographic group, early voters may make up half of the electorate.
In every pre-debate California poll, Harris ran ahead of her national average. We can safely assume if she wins Iowa or New Hampshire, and doesn’t have a horrible gaffe soon after, she’ll win her home state.
FiveThirtyEight lists three polls for July. The averages show an extremely tight race:
Harris: 22.0% (high 23, low 20)
Warren: 21.0% (high 25, low 16)
Biden: 19.3% (high 21, low 17)
Sanders: 18.0% (high 20, low 16)
The margin for error is greater than the gap between first and fourth. Elizabeth Warren is the only candidate with any real distance between ceiling and floor. There’s a chance she’s being slightly overrated here.
Her high poll, from Capitol Weekly, has a demographic breakdown (71% white) that’s impossible for California unless it’s a GOP primary survey, and I’m thinking that’s not Warren’s audience. Remove it and she’s still in contention though.
The crosstabs for Capitol Weekly are odd too. Not only is the sample breakdown unrealistic, but the various demographic groups aren’t showing the same variation we’ve seen nationally or in other individual states.
I was tempted to toss this out entirely. FiveThirtyEight doesn’t have a pollster rating for them, and it appeared the results were just bad, even if the topline numbers for Harris, Biden, and Sanders were within 2% of their CA averages.
Younger voters are still more likely to feel the Bern. If anything, even more so. Quinnipiac has him at 31% with voters 18-49, and 6% once they qualify for an AARP card.
Biden is still more popular with older voters, scoring 15% among the youngest group, and 34% with the Medicare-eligible crowd.
Sanders still polls better if voters don’t have degrees. Warren still does better if they do. She’s also least popular with conservatives. Kamala’s favorite age bracket remains 50-64. But that’s pretty much it.
Almost any ethnic split is explainable by age. Bernie does the best with Latinx voters, but they skew heavily younger. Strangely, it doesn’t matter how liberal, moderate, or conservative California voters are. His support is consistent.
Elsewhere, Biden is most popular with more conservative, less educated voters. Here he does marginally better with more educated voters and has no ideological split.
Harris is usually more consistent from group to group than most of her competitors, so her lack of many distinct splits here is less of a surprise. Most demographics are at least available to her, but few are locked down.
This is with Pete Buttigieg averaging 6.3% support. A couple months ago, multiple surveys had California as a five person race. He raised the most money last quarter. He’s running well ahead of his national average in Iowa and somewhat ahead in New Hampshire.
His Golden State splits are also less dramatic than elsewhere. There are as many Asian voters, who he scores well with, as African Americans, who he doesn’t. An Iowa win for Mayor Pete and this gets even more confusing.
Sanders has the most volatile electorate. Younger voters traditionally show up less often. He’s doing best with those who are paying the least attention. That increases his risk further. But there are millions of Millennial Californians. They’re very anti-Trump.
If Bernie wins New Hampshire, and they’re as excited about the primary as they were the midterms, he could easily win. Almost 100% name recognition in a state that’s too expensive to cover on TV doesn’t hurt. Many of his voters are cord cutters anyway.
Warren continues to run ahead of her national average in California. If she wins an early state, she’ll be hard to beat, especially if Harris hasn’t won yet.
This isn’t Iowa, where less-visible candidates can outwork Biden, get local media coverage in every small hamlet, and make up for his name recognition. The average Californian isn’t paying as much attention as an early state voter either.
I’m guessing it’s due to his association with President Obama, who is extra popular in California, but while there’s no safe harbor category for Biden here, he’s also not poison among young liberals.
So assuming Harris does well enough but not tremendously in the first couple states, we have a mess. Four, potentially five candidates are clustered. Most demographic groups are up for grabs. A few thousand voters in Iowa and/or New Hampshire could easily make the difference between Kamala Harris front-runner and Kamala Harris is hoping to be someone’s Veep.