Feeling the Bern in California

My pals at the Institute of Governmental Studies here at UC Berkeley (where I remain a fellow against all odds—story to follow some day soon) today released their latest poll on the state of the presidential race here in the once Golden State ahead of the March primary. I know the IGS pollster, Mark DiCamilo, quite well (in fact we shared an office for a time), and I think he is one of the best in the polling business. One of these days he’ll be a guest on the Power Line podcast.

Anyway, guess what Mom? Bernie is surging:

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is now the outright leader in voter preferences in California’s upcoming March 3rd Democratic presidential primary.  The latest Berkeley IGS Poll completed last week finds Sanders to be the choice of 26% of likely voters in the Democratic primary.  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is second at 20%, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 15%.  No other Democrat is in double digits. . .

Support for Warren has been fading since September when a Berkeley IGS Poll had her in the lead.  Sanders has been the chief beneficiary of Warren’s decline, as he now receives 41% backing from strongly liberal voters, up from 31% in September when he was trailing Warren. . .

Sanders’ support is even more striking among the state’s younger voters, as he currently receives the backing of 54% of voters under age 30 and 39% of voters age 30-39. . .

Biden’s base of support is derived primarily from older voters and political moderates. Yet, his backing among these constituencies has been declining throughout the campaign.

This chart is interesting, as it shows Bernie’s steady rise, Biden’s slow descent, and Mayor Pete’s roller coaster ride:

Two other interesting findings stand out. First, we keep hearing that selecting a candidate most able to beat Trump is the number one priority of Democrats. Well maybe, but not so much here in California apparently:

Likely voters in the Democratic primary were also asked which was more important to them in deciding whom to support for President in the primary—the candidate with the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump in November or the candidate who most agrees with them on major issues.

The results indicate that the state’s Democratic electorate is almost evenly divided on this, with 53% attaching a higher priority to voting for candidates with the best chance of defeating Trump in the fall and 47% favoring candidates who most agrees with them on the issues. . . By a wide 80% to 20% margin, voters under the age of 30 are intending to back candidates who most agree with them on the issues.

That tells me that Bernie is going to romp here, like McGovern did in 1972, and perhaps elsewhere, too. That whole “best person to beat Trump” theme is likely a conceit of CNN and MSNBC.

Second, California has complicated rules on awarding delegates in the primary, and it may favor Bernie over Lizzie:

The stakes in capturing California’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention are high since it will be sending 495 delegates to the convention, by far the most of any state. . . The manner in which California’s pledged delegates are awarded to the candidates is rather complex since they are based not only on the statewide election returns but also from the returns within each of the state’s 53 congressional districts (CDs). . .

[A] candidate like Sanders who receives a 26% share of the statewide vote, would be expected to be in a very strong position to reach the 15% threshold to be awarded delegates in a large majority of CDs.  And, according to the poll, this is indeed the case, as he is seen as capturing at least a 15% share of the vote in 48 of the state’s 53 CDs.  Thus, he is in position to be awarded delegates not only from the statewide vote but within virtually all of the state’s CDs as well. . .

By comparison, a candidate with a 20% share of the statewide vote, like Warren, would be expected to reach the 15% threshold in somewhat fewer CDs.  And, again the poll finds this is indeed the case, as she does so in 38 CDs.  On the other hand, a candidate, like Biden who is receiving only a 15% level of the statewide vote, is in a much more perilous position. Not only does he need to avoid falling below the 15% threshold in the statewide vote, from a statistical standpoint he would be expected to fall below this threshold in a much larger number of CDs.  And, the poll indeed finds this to be the case, as Biden reaches this threshold in just 26 of the state’s CDs.

Translation: Bernie is in a great position to get a disproportionate share of California’s Democratic delegates. If this happens, it might well be Game Over.

Meanwhile, this from the latest Gallup Poll yesterday is why Trump should be favored for re-election:

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