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California and the West | THE TIMES POLL

Feinstein Far Ahead of Campbell

Incumbent senator is favored 60% to 35% over her GOP foe, who has suffered from poor name recognition and a meager war chest.

October 27, 2000|GREG KRIKORIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Only days before the election, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has an overwhelming lead over Republican Tom Campbell in a new Times poll that illustrates the challenge of mounting a viable campaign across California with little name recognition or campaign money.

The survey, conducted Oct. 19 to 23, found Feinstein leading the San Jose congressman 60% to 35% overall and among every group polled except white men, historically a bedrock for the GOP.

Only one-third of the voters had a favorable impression of Campbell, while 54% said they had either never heard of him or did not know enough about the candidate to offer an opinion.

"I don't know anything about him," said Republican Cathy Barrett, a 57-year-old telecommunications worker from Bakersfield. "His name is going to be on the ballot and people here are going to say, 'Who is he?' "

Sean Walsh, a Campbell strategist, said the poll reflects the congressman's long-standing difficulty in raising his name identification--a problem the campaign hopes to overcome with a last-minute media blitz.

"As we close the final two weeks of the campaign . . . we are hopeful and confident we can close the distance," Walsh said.

But Feinstein's campaign manager, Kam Kuwata, said the results instead reflect Campbell's failure to impress voters. "Whenever you want to replace a popular incumbent, you must provide a logical rationale, and he has failed to do so," he said.

From the outset of his uphill battle to unseat California's senior senator, Campbell and his campaign have known that he would need to dramatically increase his name recognition beyond the Bay Area, where he has served as a congressman and state senator.

But without the money to advertise heavily, Campbell has pursued an issues-driven campaign--campaign finance, foreign affairs, America's drug policies--that, according to all independent polls, has been a failure.

The Times poll of 852 likely voters found that, in a predominantly Democratic state, Feinstein has the support of 92% of her party's likely voters. Campbell is backed by three of every four Republicans.

Just as important, Feinstein has much more support among registered independents than Campbell, a significant factor for a challenger who needs a combination of Republicans, Democrats and independents to be a serious contender. Feinstein has support from one in five GOP voters, almost three times the percentage of cross-party support Campbell has from Democrats.

"I really feel a bond for Mrs. Feinstein," said Republican Grace Johnston, a 64-year-old retiree from Hayward. "I feel she stepped into a very difficult situation in San Francisco when she took office" as mayor after the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

"I have felt that since that time she was the type of leader I could support . . . and I have never seen a Republican, unfortunately, who has changed my view about how capable she is," Johnston said.

The Times poll found that two of three voters approve of Feinstein's performance as senator, 26% disapprove and 8% have no opinion.

When asked about Campbell, one in three had favorable impressions. A majority said they had no opinions.

"Basically, 54% said they don't know who the man is, and with less than two weeks left in the campaign, that is a very bad sign," said Susan Pinkus, director of the Times Poll.

With little time left before the election, Campbell's campaign has acknowledged that its best hope for narrowing the gap is to sway voters with a pair of televised debates this week. The candidates clashed Tuesday in Santa Monica and will meet again in San Francisco tonight in a debate that will be broadcast live on KRON-TV Channel 4 in the Bay Area and statewide on C-SPAN.

The strategy is working, at least with some voters.

Republican Jake Breugen, 55, said he has finally decided to support Campbell after watching the first debate. "It kind of closed the door on Feinstein for me," said Breugen, a greenhouse farmer south of Modesto. "He far outdid Dianne Feinstein. . . . The way he presented himself was far better."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

U.S. Senate Matchup

What is your impression of ...Dianne Feinstein:

Favorable: 66%

Unfavorable: 28%

Don't know: 6%

* Tom Campbell:

Favorable: 33%

Unfavorable: 13%

Don't know: 54%

*

Notes: All results shown are among likely California voters. Numbers may not total 100% where not all answer categories are shown.

Source: L.A. Times Poll

Poll results are also available at http://www.latimes.com/timespoll.

*

How the poll was conducted:

The Times Poll contacted 1,304 registered voters statewide, including 852 voters most likely to vote, by telephone Oct. 19-23. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the state. Random-digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and non-listed numbers could be contacted. The entire sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age, education, region and registration. The margin of sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 4 percentage points. For certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher. Poll results can also be affected by other factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish.

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