More than a year before the presidential primary reaches California, this much can be said about the voting public: Democrats like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Republicans like Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, and a lot of people still haven’t made up their minds.
Walker, the Wisconsin governor, and Bush, the former governor of Florida, lead a crowded field of GOP hopefuls with the support of 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively, of likely Republican voters in California, according to a new Field Poll.
Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and several other candidates trail.
Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll, called the Republican race “wide open,” with months of campaigning ahead of next year’s primaries.
“The percentages are fairly small for each of the Republicans, and a lot can happen between now and then,” he said. “There’s no kind of consensus candidate.”
The Democratic side of the equation is much clearer, with 59 percent of likely Democratic voters in California supporting Clinton.
Seventeen percent of California Democrats support Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a more liberal Democrat who has said she is not running for president.
While Democrats gravitate to Clinton, 19 percent of Republican likely voters are undecided.
“I’ll be honest with you: I have no idea what’s going on in the presidential race,” said Chris Lieder, a Republican from Fresno.
But Lieder, a 29-year-old mechanical engineer, has more than a year to study up.
“When it comes time to make some decisions on who I’m voting for, I’ll definitely be current,” he said. “It’s just like I start watching football when it gets close to the Super Bowl.”
The poll reflects Clinton’s dominance in national measures, as well as lack of certainty at this early stage on the Republican side.
California Democrats have long supported Clinton, with the state going for her over Barack Obama in the presidential primary in 2008.
Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, is supported by 64 percent of Democrats who identify themselves as moderately liberal, middle-of-the-road or conservative, according to the poll. Strongly liberal Democrats are less supportive of Clinton, at 46 percent, but still give Clinton higher marks than any other candidate.
Clinton holds majority support among Democratic men and women and voters of all races and ethnic groups, though black voters and women provide her strongest support.
Next year, DiCamillo said, “Unless something unusual happens in this race, it doesn’t appear likely that it will be competitive.”
It is an open question whether California will matter in next year’s primaries.
Though a lucrative place to raise money, California holds its election in June, so late in the nominating process that other states often settle the field before voting opens here.
The state moved its primary to February in 2008 to increase its influence but more than 20 other states moved their primaries up, too. Four years later, with the primary election back in June, California didn’t vote until a week after Mitt Romney clinched the Republican nomination.
Though not likely, it is possible that this year’s race will remain competitive on the Republican side long enough for California to matter. Or lawmakers could move the primary up again, though California’s Democratic-controlled Legislature has made no moves to do so.
“By the time we get to California, a lot will have happened in the other primary and caucus states,” DiCamillo said. “And it may be that California could prove pivotal.”
Russ Miller, a Democrat from Bakersfield who supports Clinton, said the state’s lack of significance in primary elections does not weigh on him. And the 41-year-old banker acknowledged Republicans may have it worse than Democrats since they stand to be marginalized not only in the primary, but in the general election in a heavily Democratic state.
At least, he said, “hopefully so.”
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.