It has been a fascinating week in California politics. We have a field poll release giving us interesting information about the state’s political landscape, and news at the end of the week suggesting Republicans are in denial while the Democrats are likely to eat themselves… again.
The irony of course is that they backed the initiative that led to their creation in the first place. With 504,760 signatures needing to qualify, the Secretary of State’s office announced that 511,457 of the 711,307 referendum signatures submitted were legitimate signatures of registered voters.
Republican leaders believe that the new districts will give the Democrats a chance to capture two-thirds of the Senate seats, but not two-thirds of the Assembly seats.
One Republican strategist scoffed at the notion that it could lead to worse districts for Republicans stating, “I don’t think they could be much worse.”
But perhaps Columnist Dan Walters disagrees. He argues that Republicans “could demand special protection under laws protecting endangered species.
He cites the following: registration data that shows Republicans have lost three percentage points in the last four years to trail Democrats statewide by 13 points, the Republicans do not hold a single statewide office, despite Meg Whitman outspending Jerry Brown by tens of millions.
He writes, “The independent redistricting that many Republicans hoped would block a Democratic gerrymander of legislative and congressional seats did the party no favors, with Democrats now likely to gain congressional seats this year and achieve a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate.”
He notes that with the two-third legislative vote eliminated on state budgets, “Republicans now have almost zero power in the Capitol.”
If that were true, Republicans who have been obstructionists on state budgets trying to force leveraged deals that resulted in imbalanced budgets finally forced the voters to take away some of their power by allowing for a majority budget.
However, it is not quite true that Republicans have no power. As Democrats will attest, the power to prevent the raising of revenue is critical to the future political battles, and it is the one power that is still in Republican hands, at least for the moment.
Finally, Mr. Walters notes, “A sophisticated analysis of Californians’ ideological leanings, based on their votes on key ballot measures, by University of San Francisco professor David Latterman, finds that the state leans more liberal.”
To illustrate these points, we note this week’s Field Polls show strengthened positions by Democrats.
President Obama cannot win reelection without California, and his position is very strong now.
“The survey, completed among a random sample of 1,003 registered voters, finds an increasing proportion of Californians rating the President’s overall job performance positively,” the poll reported on Thursday. “A 53% majority now approves of the job he is doing, while 39% disapprove. This fourteen-point positive to negative ratio is up from smaller two and four point pluralities observed in the fall and winter of last year.”
More importantly, the President holds a commanding lead over his likely GOP opponents.
The poll reports, “This has been accompanied by an increase in Californians’ desire to reelect Obama to a second term. This is manifested best when he is matched against each of the leading candidates running for the GOP nomination in general election simulations.”
“The President currently leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by twenty points (55% to 35%), double his preference margin three months ago. He holds even larger leads of twenty-eight and twenty-three percentage points, respectively, over two other potential GOP rivals, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich,” the poll finds.
Polling also found strong support for both tax increases.
“In its latest statewide survey, The Field Poll measured voter preferences toward these proposed initiatives by reading a summary of their official ballot titles and descriptions. The results show the CFT’s [California Federation of Teachers] proposal receiving the most support, with 63% of voters inclined to vote yes, and 31% on the no side. It calls for increasing state income taxes on Californians earning more than $1 million and even higher taxes on incomes above $2 million, with funds benefiting the schools, social services, public safety and road maintenance,” the poll reported on Friday.
The Field Poll likewise found strong support for the the Governor’s tax proposal. This would temporarily increase state income taxes on Californians earning more than $250,000 and raise the state sales tax by one-half cent to fund education and guarantee local public safety services, also receives majority support.
“Currently, 58% of voters back this initiative, while 36% are opposed,” the poll found.
But while the Democrats may look to be in strong position in the state, having competing tax measures is not the ideal way to go. However, neither side appears to be backing down.
A few weeks ago, Governor Brown scored a coup for his tax measure when the California Teachers Association backed it over the millionaire’s tax.
“Educators know that California cannot continue to cut its way out of ongoing budget problems. We also know that not everyone in California is paying their fair share, and that’s why we are supporting the governor’s tax proposal, which taxes the wealthiest Californians in order to bring additional revenue to our schools, colleges and other essential public services,” Dean Vogel, president of the CTA and a Davis resident said in a statement on Sunday.
“The governor’s initiative is the only initiative that provides additional revenues for our classrooms and closes the state budget deficit, and guarantees local communities will receive funds to pay for the realignment of local health and public safety services that the Legislature approved last year,” he continued. “It’s time to put California back on track and this initiative is the best way to do that. It’s the right choice for our students and their families, our communities and our state.”
However, the rival CFT organization continues to steadfastly back the millionaire’s tax.
On Friday evening, CFT strategist Steven Maviglio tweeted, “Doesn’t look like CFT backing off millionaires tax. Another $200K reported tonight.”
The Sacramento Bee argued a few weeks ago that there was “growing tension among Democrats about competing tax plans.”
As Steve Glazer, strategist for Jerry Brown, said on Friday, “If all three measures are on the ballot, it’s very unlikely that any will prevail, and there will be greater cuts throughout state government and especially on schools.”
The third tax measure, put forth by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger, was trailing 48-45, according to The Field Poll. That measure, “would more broadly increase state income taxes on most individuals and earmark the revenues to the k-12 schools, pre-schools, and child care.”
According to Friday’s Bee, “CFT President Joshua Pechthalt said the poll numbers were encouraging and that his coalition is moving forward despite the governor’s attempts to clear the field.”
“It’s certainly not a sign to us that it is time to abandon our efforts,” he said.
Mr. Glazer, while acknowledging the CFT plan, countered, “It doesn’t take into account the fact that they’ll experience funded opposition to their plan, versus the governor’s, which has broad-based support from labor, business and elected officials.”
One thing is sure, Democrats despite their immense advantage will find a way to divide themselves and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The only thing they have going for them is that the Republicans in the state are equally inept, and their policies are more unpopular.
—David M. Greenwald reporting