California Dems Avoiding Enthusiasm Gap

California Dems Avoiding Enthusiasm Gap

By Erin McPike - October 25, 2010

VAN NUYS, Calif. - Democrats in this left-leaning state are so excited that enthusiasm might rest more with their side that they tried to guard against complacency at a rally here Sunday.

In a midterm year when pundit after pundit has suggested that enthusiasm rests almost exclusively with the GOP across the country - and Democrats peddle polls to show that their candidates are closing the gaps with Republicans in a number of races - the Golden State appears to be the outlier.

"The only poll that counts is the one on Election Day," Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said to fire up supporters at the rally, which featured the statewide Democratic ticket.

"We say that every time, and we mean it," she said.

The incumbent leads Republican challenger Carly Fiorina ever so slightly in recent surveys and is 2.5 points ahead in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

But a new poll out Sunday from the Los Angeles Times and the University of Southern California showed both Boxer and Democratic former Gov. Jerry Brown, who is seeking his old seat, leading their GOP opponents, Fiorina and Meg Whitman, respectively, by healthy margins.

The poll surveyed 922 likely voters from Oct. 13 to Oct. 20 and found Brown leading Whitman 52 percent to 39 percent. Boxer led Fiorina 50 percent to 42 percent.

But both of the Republican campaigns pushed back on the poll, noting that it stopped surveying voters five days ago and is outdated in a fast-moving time for the races.

Fiorina pollster Dave Sackett wrote in a memo issued Sunday, "The poll that was released this morning by the Los Angeles Times is well outside the margin of error on the RealClearPolitics mean average of all of the public polls conducted on the California U.S. Senate race during the month of October."

Sackett's memo also faulted the poll for employing a 2006 model that skews to Democrats.

In the governor's race, Whitman's campaign also disputed the results.

"Just like their poll earlier this fall, today's Los Angeles Times poll, conducted by a Democrat polling firm, assumes a completely irrational turnout mix. Additionally, it's aged. That's fine for cheese and wine, but not polls," read a memo from the former eBay chief's camp.

Multiple strategists for the campaign have said that they've noted an uptick for Whitman in the past 10 days, and veteran strategist Mike Murphy called the new surveys "comic relief."

"I think we're going to win, and it's going to be a nice little upset," he said.

But San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is running for lieutenant governor, dismissed the GOP complaints.

"It's only 48 or 72 hours behind," he told RealClearPolitics. "I really don't think they're all that far off."

In their speeches Sunday, he and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who is running for attorney general, both went further than most Democrats running for statewide office this year have been willing to go.

Newson went so far as to say the federal health bill did not do enough - and that California Democrats know better.

He touted his own universal health care plan that he implemented in his city and said, "I love playing outside my weight. I love going outside my job description."

Harris noted the $1 million that the Karl Rove-backed Republican State Leadership Committee has spent on the air in her race and mentioned that the group has called her radical.

"You know what? I am," she said, ticking off her list of policy goals.

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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