September 18th, 2020


California could hand Donald Trump the GOP nomination --- and then doom him on election night

Philip Bump

By Philip Bump The Washington Post

Published March 29, 2016

It's still weird that the last states to vote this primary season won't do so until June 7 --- more than two months from now. Why this whole thing needs to drag out so long is a mystery, although it derives in part from the fact that in most cycles, things are pretty much wrapped up by now. But this year, we're going to have to slog through a lot of weeks of small states voting and candidates tweeting at one another before we get to the state that could very well decide both nomination contests: California.

Two months is also too long to put a ton of weight on polling, but we can at least get a sense of the field of play. A new survey from the Los Angeles Times and USC, for example, suggests how June 7 could shape the presidential contest: Confirming Donald Trump's delegate majority and securing Hillary Clinton's lead -- while preparing to shut the door in November by handing its electoral votes to Hillary Clinton by a wide margin as the last big state to report in on election night.

There are only two demographics we really need to look at in each race. On the Democratic side, the question is how the non-white vote (in this majority non-white state) will go. And on the Republican side, it's where each candidate leads. After all, while the Democratic contest awards its delegates proportionally, the Republicans give three delegates to the winner of each of the state's 53 congressional districts.

Unfortunately, the Times/USC poll didn't have large enough samples of poll respondents for most regions and demographic groups. But on the Democratic side, the trend in California is similar to what we've seen elsewhere. White voters are friendlier to Bernie Sanders than non-whites -- though in California, Clinton continues to lead with whites, too. That's key to her statewide lead of 8 points.

The pollsters included a large sample of Latinos, too, so we can rely on those numbers. (And remember that point; we'll come back to it.)

On the Republican side, Trump leads statewide and also in the regions of the state where there were enough Republicans to be significant -- Southern California and the state's big cities, in aggregate. Those cities are where most of the congressional districts are, too, so a Trump lead there is significant -- even though that lead will vary by area of town, and so on.

But it is a picture of a state where Trump can easily rack up a lot of delegates. And if the Republican contest continues to trudge forward as it is, that may be the thing he needs to finally, just under the wire, hit the 1,237-delegate mark he needs to clinch the nomination.

That's where the good news ends for Trump.

Of course, California was always going to go Democratic, right? This poll suggests, though, that Trump's not-entirely-founded optimism about playing in typically blue states will clearly not happen in California.

At this point, he trails Clinton in a head-to-head match-up by 32 points, with a healthy number of people not having made up their minds. But it's still a hard majority, and a near-majority of whites. Remember how the pollsters included a lot of Latino respondents? Those Latinos prefer Clinton by more than 6-to-1.

Asked about how enthusiastic they'd be about supporting each potential nominee, the difference was again clear. Most people would be more enthusiastic about voting for Clinton than Trump. But notice the "refuse to support" numbers. Fully 27 percent of Californians would refuse to vote for Trump. And 42 percent of Latinos would refuse to vote for him -- seven times the number who say the same about Clinton.

We're not going to extrapolate from that strong response to the rest of the country. But it's significant. Trump's positions and comments have earned him a lot of negative feeling from California's Latinos. California may give him the nomination, but that antipathy likely means that he probably has even less of a chance at winning the state than, say Ted Cruz.

But if two months is a long time from now, seven months is an eternity. We'll wait for more polling.

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