Dem 51
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GOP 49
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California Senate Race Is Unfolding as Expected

Polling of the race to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has been scarce, and what we did have was mostly from pollsters working for one of the campaigns. But now we have an actual, high-quality poll, from LA Times/Berkeley IGS, and it confirms what everyone already thought.

Here is the rundown of candidates:

The first takeaway here is that Feinstein is going to be succeeded by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) or Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA). No other candidates have the name recognition or the fundraising prowess, and no other candidates are making any meaningful headway as the primaries get closer and closer.

The second takeaway is that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was, and is, fooling herself. In contrast to Schiff and Porter, she does not have the name recognition or the fundraising prowess. Further, she is 77 years old. Perhaps Lee has not noticed, but voters are not eager to cast their ballots for someone who would serve into their mid-80s, particularly when there are other options. Lee spent yesterday complaining about Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D-CA) twin promises to: (1) appoint a caretaker, and (2) appoint a Black woman, should Feinstein step down. Since Lee is a candidate for the seat, she is not a caretaker, and so she's out of the running. And so, she accused the Governor of tokenism, saying that if he's going to appoint a Black woman, he should appoint someone who might actually hold onto the seat. Someone like, say, Barbara Lee. We doubt that this sort of "I want a personal shortcut" kvetching is going to improve Lee's senatorial prospects. And Newsom could keep his promise in a different way. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is Black and represents a D+32 district south of Los Angeles. She is 85 and has served in the House for 32 years. Being a senator for a year might be a great way to end her career. That way, for the rest of her life, when she appeared on talk shows, the host would address her as "senator." In addition, Waters is an outspoken progressive and putting a fiery progressive Black woman in the Senate, even for a short time, would please his base immensely.

The third, and final, takeaway is that the relatively meager California Republican vote is in danger of being split. Not all of these candidates are declared, as yet—the pollster was just making its best guess as to who will eventually throw their (ball)cap into the ring. If multiple Republicans do run, they probably won't drop out, since it's just a vanity campaign anyhow. In that event, the general election would probably end up as Schiff and Porter. And since that would leave Republican voters to choose the less objectionable Democrat, it would almost certainly lead to Schiff being elected.

There's still time, of course, but the only plausible change in the dynamics of the race, barring a big surprise, is if the Republican vote coalesces behind one candidate. In that case, a Republican might make the general, and the Schiff-Porter tilt in the primary would decide the identity of California's next U.S. Senator. For reference, the Republicans have only managed to get a candidate into the final round of voting once in the last three U.S. Senate elections, and he (Mark Meuser) got steamrolled by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. (Z)

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