EXCLUSIVE: California gleaming

Romney gains on McCain in crucial Golden State contest; Clinton's lead holds steady
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 22, 2008

According to a poll obtained exclusively by the Boston Phoenix, Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama by 11 percentage points in California, while John McCain has a small and shrinking lead over Mitt Romney with two weeks left before the Golden State’s presidential primaries.

The California primary is the biggest prize on Super Tuesday, February 5, when more than 20 states will hold their primaries or caucuses. California’s primary will determine 173 delegates to the Republican National Convention. For the Democrats, 370 pledged delegates are at stake.

With Clinton likely to win her home state of New York, California is especially important for Obama as the two Democratic frontrunners fight to collect delegates for the nomination. Obama began advertising on San Francisco–area television stations on January 12, and did his first mail campaign in the state a few days later. Clinton began advertising on California TV this past Thursday, and is visiting the state this week. The poll was conducted from January 18 to 21 by EMC Research of Oakland.

One week ago, the same poll showed McCain holding a substantial lead in California. But that was before the GOP’s Michigan primary on the 15th, and the January 18 Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary. Romney won both the Michigan and Nevada contests, while McCain won South Carolina. Romney appears to have benefited from his victories and from a decline in Rudy Giuliani’s standing.

McCain’s support has dropped six points, from 30 percent to 24 percent, while Romney gained six to move into second place at 20 percent. McCain’s lead is now just within the poll’s margin-of-error.

Fred Thompson (who, according to news reports, is dropping out of the GOP race) had 12 percent in the poll, followed by Mike Huckabee at 11 percent. Giuliani’s support dropped to seven percent, from 15 percent a week earlier.

Among the Democrats, support remained almost identical from the previous week. Clinton leads Obama 39 percent to 28 percent, with John Edwards trailing at 12 percent. A week ago, Clinton led by 12 percentage points, 41 to 29, with Edwards at 13.

Only registered Republicans can vote in California’s GOP primary, while Democrats and Independents can participate with the Democrats. The poll took this into account in qualifying likely voters for the survey.

David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein@phx.com.

Related: Let the horse race begin, Super preview, The enthusiasm gap, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Elections and Voting,  More more >
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