One of the assumptions a lot of people – including me, I might add – have made about the state of the race after next Tuesday is that Donald Trump would likely beat Ted Cruz in a heads up matchup in California. Which is silly, really, and I don’t know what I was thinking. People assume that since California overall is liberal, then the GOP primary electorate must necessarily also be liberal, therefore Trump should be favored heavily over Cruz.
What I forgot, and what any California Republican can tell you, is that the Democratic dominance of California for so many years has resulted in a GOP primary electorate that is surprisingly conservative (if pragmatic). It is more or less the exact opposite of the effect that allowed Bernie Sanders to do so well in Kansas and Nebraska, states where Republicans have been dominant for years: the Democrats that are left tend to be radicalized and ideologically committed. The middle-of-the-road voters long ago left for the GOP, figuring that they could wield more influence over there.
In any event, here comes a poll of California voters – the first one in a long time – that shows two things. First, that Trump would get dominated in a general election matchup there, and second, that if the GOP field has come down to Trump v. Cruz by the time California votes, Trump would be in trouble.
The top line result of the poll is this: Trump 24%, Cruz 20%, Rubio 18%, Kasich 15%. If you imagine a race in which Kasich and Rubio are gone, all Cruz would have to do would be to pull in Rubio/Kasich voters at a 60/40% split and he would beat Trump. Does anyone not think that Cruz would get 60% of the Rubio/Kasich voters that have held out against supporting Trump this long? I don’t.
Obviously, we have a ways to go before California. But I think it’s premature to say that Trump will necessarily win it. In fact, if Rubio and Kasich aren’t still hanging around, I think it highly likely that he won’t. So when we’re figuring out our delegate allocation charts, putting California automatically in the Trump column doesn’t really make much sense.