Capitol Alert

Gavin Newsom, Dianne Feinstein lead for top California offices, poll says

Republican candidate John Cox, left, shakes hands with Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom after a California gubernatorial debate at KQED in San Francisco on Oct. 8.
Republican candidate John Cox, left, shakes hands with Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom after a California gubernatorial debate at KQED in San Francisco on Oct. 8. AP

In the final sprint to Election Day, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has a commanding advantage in his quest for the governor’s office, while U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein appears headed for a fifth full term, according to a new poll.

Newsom was the preferred gubernatorial candidate of 49 percent of voters likely to cast ballots by Nov. 6, while 38 percent said they prefer Republican businessman John Cox, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found. A tenth of likely voters were undecided, according to the poll, conducted Oct. 12 to Oct. 21.

The numbers are nearly identical to the September survey, reflecting a stable lead for Newsom less than two weeks before Election Day.

“We’ve seen Newsom with a significant lead since the primary…things have been fairly settled,” said PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare.

Watch Election Night highlights of John Cox and Gavin Newsom in California governor's race.

In the U.S. Senate race, Feinstein leads state Sen. Kevin de León, a fellow Democrat, 43 percent to his 27 percent. Her lead has grown stronger since the primary, as she has consolidated support to hold a 3-to-1 advantage among Democrats.

Nearly a quarter of likely voters, including half of all Republicans, said they will not cast a vote in the Senate race, the poll found. Among those GOP voters planning to participate, 28 percent said they would support de León, while 14 percent preferred Feinstein.

Eliminating so many Republican voters from the mix, Feinstein’s lead grows to 20 points, 55 percent to 35 percent.

“That’s indicative of the fact that de León isn’t getting a lot of support among Democrats,” Baldassare said, “so he needs to find support among Republicans and independents, and that hasn’t happened.”

Republicans were also disinterested in the previous U.S. Senate race in 2016, when Kamala Harris handily defeated fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Baldassare noted.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her challenger, fellow Democrat Kevin de León, differed over the role of Democrats in Congress with Republicans in control there and in the White House.

Republican reluctance to choose between two Democrats for Senate, and the partisan split between Newsom and Cox — Newsom is supported by 83 percent of Democrats and Cox by 82 percent of Republicans — reflect the broader divide in California’s electorate.

President Donald Trump is a dominant factor, Baldassare said.

“One of the things I noticed, and particularly in voter support for John Cox, is that there is a very strong relationship between approval of President Trump and support for John Cox,” he said. “His support is very closely tied to Trump.”

Pollsters interviewed 989 Californians considered likely to vote. The results carry a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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