FIELD POLL: Voters are less inclined to re-elect Feinstein
06:35 AM PDT on Tuesday, June 21, 2011
But more voters than not approve of the job Feinstein, D-Calif., is doing in Washington and the pool of potential 2012 Republican challengers is murky.
Polls taken within a year of her previous election bids found that most voters favored Feinstein.
Today's Field Poll, conducted for The Press-Enterprise and other California media subscribers, found that just 43 percent are inclined to cast a ballot for the state's senior senator. Thirty-nine percent are not inclined to voter for her, and 18 percent are without an opinion.
The shift may say more about voter attitudes toward the state of national politics than it does about Feinstein, Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said. He noted that the same survey found far more voters (46 percent) approve of the job she is doing in Washington than disapprove (31 percent.)
"It's not a great year for incumbents," DiCamillo said. "Given where she had been in prior years, this would appear to be a more opportune year to challenge her."
Feinstein campaign strategist Bill Carrick blamed such suggestions on "political amnesia ." Carrick pointed to 1994, when a Republicans won control of the House and Senate in a landslide victory but failed to unseat Feinstein.
Carrick said Feinstein already has raised $5 million for her campaign, and soon will sharpen her focus on the race ahead.
"We're going into a campaign cycle that gives us the opportunity to communicate with the voters and tell them what the senator's been doing in Washington," he said.
It remains unclear who might emerge from the GOP to take on Feinstein.
In most years, the House of Representatives would be seen as a logical place for the party to find a challenger. But since voters returned Republicans to power in the House, a run at the Democrat-controlled Senate may look less attractive to high profile members of Congress.
"You certainly don't want to give up all the pleasures of majority status for a risky run against an entrenched incumbent senator in a blue state," Claremont McKenna College politics professor Jack Pitney said.
The ongoing redistricting process could yield a challenger. The state panel created to draw new political lines for California has released draft maps that, if made final, would put several Republican House members into seats they would have a hard time winning.
"It's quite possible that a couple of Republicans will find themselves squeezed out," Pitney said. "And if they want to return to Washington, a run for the Senate might be the way to do it."
Today's poll of 950 voters was conducted from June 3 to June 11. Some questions were asked of a sub-sample. Margins of error ranged from 3.3 percentage points for the overall sample to 4.6 percentage points for the sub-samples.
Reach Ben Goad at 202-661-8422 or bgoad@PE.com