As state Democrats gather in Sacramento beginning tomorrow for their annual convention, a top Democratic pollster has issued a fresh poll assessing the candidates who may seek the party's nomination for governor next year.
The results: Attorney General Jerry Brown has a sizable lead, but is favored by only 31 percent of those who have a preference. Brown polls well among older voters (the over 50 crowd, who know, at least, that he was governor once before) but not so well among the younger crowd.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who formally declared his candidacy yesterday with a visit to Facebook headquarters, checks in at 16 percent and fares well among younger Democrats and those in the Bay Area.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa registers at 12 percent, but only slightly carries his expected base vote, Latinos. Villaraigosa garnered 29 percent of Latino voters polled, only slightly better than Brown, who has always been popular among Latinos.
Lt. Governor John Garamendi picks up 11 percent -- but those voters will apparently have to find another candidate, as Garamendi yesterday switched course and announced he would run in a special election for Congress. Garamendi's strength is in Sacramento, which is good news for ...
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who registers at just 6 percent. O'Connell is strongest in the Sacramento region, and presumably could benefit from Garamendi's departure from the field. The former Oxnard legislator has said he is assessing the race and will get in only if he believes he will have enough resources to be competitive.
Perhaps some donors might be more intrigued with O'Connell's chances with Garamendi out. The three leading contenders each have different bases of support, and each has potential liabilities in a general election: Brown is seen by some as too old and someone who has already had is chance; Newsom is burdened by being from very liberal San Francisco and also by his decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses in his city; and Villaraigosa continues to be haunted by revelations about his personal life.
All four will have their opportunities to speak to Democratic convention delegates on Saturday morning.
Can O'Connell sell himself as the most electable Democrat in a general election -- and as someone who could conceivably prevail in a four-way primary by faring well in the Central Valley and in the Southern California suburban counties while the top-tier candidates divide up the Democratic strongholds of Los Angeles County and the Bay Area?
Pollster Ben Tulchin's take on the race is that the dynamics are shaping up as a potential reprise of the national Democratic primaries in 2008 -- an old guard vs. the up-and-comer scenario, with Brown playing the role of Hillary Clinton and Newsom the role of Barack Obama.