Donald Trump’s lead in the California primary has narrowed to seven points over Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the new Field Poll released Thursday, showing the Republican frontrunner with 39% to the conservative senator’s 32%. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is third at 18%.
Trump is winning in the Bay Area (39-32) and in Southern California outside Los Angeles County (45-23). Cruz is winning in the Central Valley (42-33), and in L.A. County and the Inland Empire to the east (40-29), where long commutes boost the audience for conservative talk radio. That data matches indications from earlier regional polls.
Trump does well among voters over 50, according to the Sacramento Bee, and among those who voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003, which poll director Mark DiCamillo said is the key demographic factor in California.
Schwarzenegger himself has endorsed Kasich, who is running to the left of both Trump and Cruz in 2016, even though he was seen in Congress, and for his first two years in Ohio, as a conservative.
Both Trump and Cruz have negative favorability among California voters, according to the poll. Cruz has a narrow lead among Latinos and women, and a larger lead among younger voters. Trump leads among men, and voters with high school education. Both lose to Hillary Clinton in general election matchups — Trump by 28 and Cruz by 23.
The results are encouraging for the “Stop Trump” movement, which sees Cruz and California as crucial to their goal or forcing a contested convention.
Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant who is helping to organize the “Stop Trump” effort in the state, told Bay Area public radio station KQED: “California will be the backstop, if it’s needed, to keep Trump from getting to 1,237 majority of delegates (the number needed to win on the first ballot) and send the Republicans to an open convention in Cleveland with an opportunity to hit a reset button.”
According to KQED, the “Stop Trump” strategy in California relies on strategic voting in each district to deny Trump the opportunity to split Cruz and Kasich supporters. The idea is to convince Kasich supporters in peri-urban districts where Cruz is stronger to vote for Cruz, and to convince Cruz supporters in urban districts where Kasich is stronger to vote for Kasich. Denying Trump enough district wins could deny him an overall delegate majority.
Analysts agree that Cruz and Kasich, both of whom are speaking at the California Republican Party convention at the end of April, are more organized in the state than Trump, who is self-funding and relies on media coverage.