The Field Poll shows Brown and Whitman both drawing 41 percent support from registered California voters, with 18 percent still undecided.
But Whitman’s onslaught of more than $100 million in television and radio advertising—which has saturated both the state’s English and Spanish-language media—has succeeded in cutting Brown’s lead among Latinos from 23 percentage points in January to just 3 points today.
The narrowing margin among Latinos should especially concern Brown, says Louis DeSipio, a political science professor at the University of California at Irvine, since Latino voters have solidly favored Democrats ever since then-Governor Pete Wilson, a Republican, pushed through the anti-immigrant ballot measure, Proposition 187, in 1994.
“Brown was there for the farm workers when he was governor 30 years ago,” DeSipio said. But Brown has done little to explain his history or candidacy to younger Latinos or recent immigrants who know little about him, DeSipio said.
Brown “needs to be talking [to these voters] about bread-and-butter issues” like jobs and education, DeSipio added. “Talking about the past is not enough.”
State Senator Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, a former union organizer and leading voice in California’s emerging Hispanic political establishment, blamed Brown’s diminishing share of the Latino vote on the Democrats’ failure to respond to a deluge of advertising by Whitman in the Spanish-language media.
Cedillo called Whitman’s Spanish-language advertising “Orwellian” because of its “complete saturation” of airtime on nearly every Spanish-language television and radio station.
Whitman is not only buying advertising time on big Univision and Telemundo stations, Cedillo said, but on small Spanish-language radio stations from San Diego to the Oregon border.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Still, Cedillo said he sees a silver lining amidst Brown’s declining standing among Latino voters.
“We are witnessing the most expensive campaign in the history of American politics,” he said, and Whitman “has still failed to convince the majority of people of California that she’s fit to be the next governor.”
Another piece of good news for Democrats, said pollster Mark DiCamillo, who heads the Field Poll, is that the demographics of the California electorate mean that Brown could win the election even without a substantial boost from Latino voters.
“Remember, this is a state that just two years ago voted for Barack Obama by a margin of 25 points,” DiCamillo said.
“There are so many more Democrats in this state than Republicans,” he said.
Even this year, a midterm election which most commentators are expecting to favor the GOP, DiCamillo said hundreds of thousands more Democrats are expected to turn out than Republicans in California.
The latest Field Poll shows Brown enjoys a whopping 54-point lead among registered Democrats, while Brown and Whitman remain deadlocked among the state’s independent voters.
Both candidates are polling at 38 percent among independents, with the remaining 24 percent undecided.
“They could provide the margin in November,” DiCamillo said.
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