Just more than five weeks before Election Day, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a commanding lead over his Democratic challenger, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who has built scant support beyond a core base of liberals, according to a new Los Angeles Times Poll.
If the Nov. 7 election were held today, likely voters would favor the Republican governor over Angelides 50 percent to 33 percent.
The survey found an abundance of grim signs for Angelides, including a failure to match Schwarzenegger's success in rallying voters of his own party strongly behind his candidacy. Just 61 percent of Democrats support Angelides, while 88 percent of Republicans favor Schwarzenegger. And independents, a crucial swing vote, support Schwarzenegger over Angelides 49 percent to 31 percent.
The poll also showed that Angelides suffers from one of the main problems that plagued California's last Democratic governor, Gray Davis: a lack of public confidence in his leadership skills. Asked who has stronger leadership qualities, 60 percent of likely voters say Schwarzenegger and 20 percent say Angelides. Even a plurality of Democrats see Schwarzenegger as a stronger leader.
The poll also found a new spike in Schwarzenegger's popularity, further progress in his steady recovery from the debacle of his 2005 ballot initiatives, which voters resoundingly rejected.
In a nearly complete reversal, 56 percent of California voters now approve of Schwarzenegger's job performance and 41 percent disapprove. In October 2005, 37 percent approved and 59 percent disapproved.
"He seems to have become a little bit more the governor of the people, rather than the governor of the Republicans," poll respondent Jack Phillips, a Democrat who lives in the Sacramento suburb of Folsom, said in a follow-up interview.
Overall, the poll affirmed the dominating force of Schwarzenegger's personality on California politics, showing his capacity - in a state that strongly favors Democrats - to break a national tide running against Republicans.
It also demonstrated his outsmarting of Angelides in seeking out the political center, where statewide elections are won in California.