The Field Poll is the long-standing polling institution in California. They’ve been in this business a long time, and they try to talk to a lot of voters (1200 RVs, yielding 558 LVs). Their poll of California shows some surprisingly great news for one candidate.
You may be inclined to look at the top line: Donald Trump 39, Ted Cruz 32. That doesn’t matter much. California is winner take all by Congressional district, with no cutoffs, no thresholds. First past the post gets all three delegates for every one of California’s 53 districts. The statewide winner wins 10 delegates, but the fight for the remaining 159 is the results of 53 local elections. And Cruz is set to win a lot of those from Trump, according to the Field Poll.
Where are those districts? About 15 of them are in LA County. Cruz leads there 40-29. About a dozen of them are in the Central Valley/Sierras, as Field broke up the state. Cruz leads there 42-33. Trump’s strongest areas are parts of Southern California apart from LA County, which will look much like Arizona in this election.
The battleground will bet he San Francisco Bay area. About another dozen districts are there, and there Trump leads by 7, but I expect big variability there. The more educated a voter is, the more likely he is to oppose Trump, as both Cruz and John Kasich do better. Basically, if Kasich weren’t on the ballot, Cruz would be in position to win a huge majority of delegates in the districts, and possibly win statewide.
But as it stands, Cruz is winning conservatives. Trump is crushing among Arnold Schwarzenegger voters 54-21, but among Tom McClintock voters (the guy who surely would have been the GOP standard bearer in that election, had there been a primary before the recall election), Cruz dominates 46-27.
Winning McClintock voters may not be enough to win any given district alone. But California’s Presidential primary is still a closed primary even if the state has gone to Washington-style blanket primaries for other races. And they may just tip the balance in enough districts that California will be the final straw denying Donald Trump a majority of delegates in Cleveland.