The highly regarded Field Poll has a new poll out this morning which takes an indepth look at the California Governor's race. It is a must read for any student of politics, particularly the complicated politics of California.
I have come to believe that this race may be the single most important race in the entire country. If Whitman wins she would be an instant leader to be the Republican Vice Presidential nominee in 2012, or she may even decide to run for President. If she is on the ticket in 2012 she could help bring a disgruntled national business community firmly into the GOP camp, and potentially put California into play in 2012, a move that could cost the Democrats tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.
This poll makes it clear that Whitman has a very real shot of winning this race, not just because of her appeal, argument and money but in how she is building her coalition, a strategy that could be replicated by the national GOP with the right ticket in 2012. In this poll she is, amazingly, winning among young people (the largest demographic age group in the poll) and trails with Latinos - 20 percent of the statewide electorate - by only 50-39. She has at that magic 40 percent mark today with Latinos, a percentage often cited by Republican strategists as the threshold number GOPers must win if they are to win national and California elections. In contrast, Democrats received 70% of the Latino vote in the 2006 midterms, and President Obama received 67 percent in 2008. They received similar numbers with young people in each of the last two elections.
For Jerry Brown getting his numbers up to the recent Democratic performance with these two huge parts of the CA electorate - 67 percent plus in each of the last 2 national elections - appears to be now, perhaps, the single most important strategic goal of his campaign in the months ahead.
If Whitman wins this race in the way she is attempting to win it she will become a powerful leader of a modern, 21st century GOP. Her victory would signal that the national GOP has begun to figure out to pick the lock of the very 21st century Obama electoral majority, built to a great degree on the enthusiastic support of young people and Hispanics.
As I wrote a few weeks ago Whitman would be a perfect VP candidate for Jeb Bush if he were to run and win the GOP nomination. This ticket, led by the governor and former governor of California and Florida, two of the largest states in the nation, could credible attack the Obama electoral map, whose firewall today is the heavily Latin parts of the country (CA-SW-FL). With the new found weakness of the President in the rustbelt and with VA and NC likely to be unwinnable in 2012, the President and his team will have to mount a very fierce defense of this Latin belt. If they hold it they can hold the Presidency. And for the GOP, it is looking like they could actually field a ticket in 2012 which could - emphasize could - win enough of the midwest and the Latin belt to mount a very credible challenge to the President next time around.
So, it is time now to take Meg Whitman, and her modern campaign, seriously.
Update Thursday AM - Whitman has gone up with billboards in Spanish announcing her opposition to SB1070. Further evidence of a smart and modern campaign. And the always sharp Christina Bellantoni of TPM also takes a look at the innovative Whitman effort in CA this morning.