To Boxer Reelection, California Voters Say “Eh?”


Just as in her two previous re-election races, Barbara Boxer rates an uncommittal "eh?" (link to PDF) from California voters more than one year out from election day. She also squashes potential GOP opponents.

The latest Field Poll asked a representative cross-section of this state’s voters about their inclination to re-elect Boxer to another term. The results show that voters are about evenly divided, with 43% inclined and 44% not inclined to re-elect her. While not a ringing endorsement, this is a slightly better assessment than Boxer received early in each of her two previous re-election runs, both of which she eventually won by comfortable margins.

These previous re-election races, in 1998 and 2004, showed a similar divide in the electorate prior to Boxer’s reelection campaigns. A May 1997 Field poll showed "a slight plurality of voters were disinclined to support her for a second term." Boxer then won her 1998 re-election, over former state treasurer Matt Fong, by a ten-point margin.

Even more ominously, in April 2003, only 38% of California voters were inclined to support Boxer for re-election, while 43% did not. The following year, she trounced former California secretary of state Bill Jones, 58/38.

The current Field poll shows the same pattern: indifferent to her re-election, California voters greatly prefer Boxer to her potential opponents in the GOP, thought now to be either the vastly unpopular Governor Arnold Schwarzegger or Hewlett-Packard golden parachutist Carly Sneed Fiorina.

Boxer’s numbers in the current poll against these opponents look like this:

When Boxer is paired against Schwarzenegger in a simulated November 2010 general election match-up, she leads by a comfortable 54% to 30% margin. This is quite different from an October 2007 Field Poll in which Schwarzenegger held a slight 44% to 43% lead over Boxer.

When Boxer is paired against Fiorina in the current survey, the incumbent is preferred by a greater than two to one margin (55% to 25%).

No head-to-heads were conducted against state senator Chuck DeVore (R-Wingnut).

If the state allows gay marriage, DeVore said, it would have to allow polygamy because it could be argued as a First Amendment right. "If you proceed down this path, you will open Pandora’s box," he said.

DeVore is the only announced candidate to oppose Boxer, but he only attains 9% in a hypothetical GOP primary against Arnold (31%) and Carly (24%). Without Arnold in that primary, DeVore rises to 19% and Carly to 31%, with a huge 50% undecided.

Will Barbara Boxer perform her magic a third time, despite an electorate about as seemingly indifferent to her re-election as Californians were in 1997 and 2003? Or will one of the GOP hopefuls find a way to exploit that "eh?" factor that Boxer has previously turned into hefty vote totals?

Will California voters, despite their recurring apparent willingness to cast Barbara Boxer aside, again return her to office? Perhaps they remember her very first campaign slogan and decide: well, at least "Barbara Boxer Gives A Damn."

{Field Poll crosstabs here – pdf}

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