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Big News in the Field Poll
by Bruce Walker
15 January 2004California

The latest Field Poll shows that 52% of Californians approve of how President Bush is handling his job, while only 42% disapprove.

The Field Poll released today should send shivers down the spines of Democrat Party nabobs. If George W. Bush carries California, the presidential election is over. California has fifty-five electoral votes, more than enough to offset the loss of Florida, Ohio and West Virginia, so if everything else broke the Democrat way, President Bush would still win reelection. President Bush has made the calculated political decision to not write off California. In 2000, even when it was clear that he would lose California, Bush invested time and money in the Golden State. These resources might have cost him the election. The vote in Florida, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and Oregon were all razor thin. He barely won the first two states and barely lost the last four states.

Why did President Bush do this? He was looking ahead to 2004. Over the next four years he would have many opportunities to reinforce a positive image which his campaign in 2000 would create in California.

President Bush has made a consistent and emphatic effort to persuade Mexican-Americans that he is sympathetic to them. This work has included visiting Mexican President Fox very early in the Bush Presidency and was recently reiterated by another meeting with President Fox. President Bush has actively supported moving Hispanics into higher levels of power, whether it is the federal judiciary, cabinet posts or congressional races.

Although the outreach to Hispanics could be important in states like New Mexico and Arizona, the principal effect, if it works, would be to make California Republican again. Now it looks like the Bush Gamble has paid off. The Field Poll released January 14, 2004 shows that 52% of Californians approve of how President Bush is handling his job and that 42% disapprove. Other very recent polls show President Bush running far ahead of Howard Dean in California. No Democrat runs well right now against Bush in California.

In the mad dash to find the angriest Democrat around -- and also to find some Democrat who might be able to chip away at Republican support in the South -- Democrats seem to have simply assumed that California would stay as staunchly Democrat as, say, New Jersey. California, however, has been a very volatile state. Assuming that California is a sure thing is very dangerous for either political party, but that is precisely what Democrats have done.

Review the list of presidential candidates in the Democrat Party. Three of the nine are from New England; one is from New York; one is from Ohio; one is from Illinois; one is from Missouri; one is from North Carolina; and one is, nominally, from Arkansas. Is there anything striking about that field? Only two are from states west of the Mississippi, and even that is misleading: Gephardt’s congressional district is in St. Louis and Clark is an Arkansan with no political roots in his state.

Now look at the Republican ticket. President Bush is the former governor of a very large southwestern state that has a long border with Mexico. The President seems very relaxed and confident, exuding the sort of personality that has always played well in California. President Bush speaks Spanish well and understands more about Mexico than perhaps any president in American history.

Vice President Cheney is from Wyoming, a Rocky Mountain state that is also big, open and informal. Both men have strong roots with that part of America west of the Mississippi River. The old Republic of California, later the State of California, is not New York or Massachusetts. Until recently, Californians felt that the best was yet to come.

This showed up in the latest Field Poll, and it is the way that it showed up which should trouble Democrats. In September, a slight plurality of Californians still disapproved of the President's job performance. What happened between the September poll and January poll? His very high support among Republicans actually dropped from 83% to 82%. His support among Independents rose seven points, not bad news but certainly nothing dramatic. The big swing was a jump of ten percentage points among Democrats, as his disapproval dropped an even bigger 13 points. Gaining 10 points in approval and losing points in disapproval is a huge net swing.

President Bush now has a couple of allies which will help maintain this edge in California. The economy appears headed for clear, steady growth. And the growth has happened when America had President Bush in the White House and Governor Schwarzenegger in Sacramento. The contemptible trashing of Schwarzenegger by the New York Times-Democrat and the Los Angeles Times-Democrat has also linked the Governor and the President politically.

The election is less than ten months away, the President has yet to actually begin his campaigning, and already he is winning California. The Recall Election was no fluke. The state whose popular two-term governor became the greatest American president in the Twentieth Century is returning to the Party of Lincoln. And without California or the South, the Democrat Party is a very little thing indeed.

Bruce Walker's articles can be found at the Conservative Truth

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