If this doesn't say a ton about the Republican bench in California I don't know what does: GOP voters in the state say their first choice to take on Dianne Feinstein next year is...Carly Fiorina, who managed to lose by double digits last year to an unpopular Barbara Boxer.
23% say Fiorina would be their top pick as a Senate candidate. Tied for second place at 16% is another retread, Meg Whitman, along with Darrell Issa who it's hard to imagine having much appeal in a statewide election. After that it's Tom Campbell at 15%, Arnold Schwarzenegger at 6%, Steve Poizner with 5%, Kevin McCarthy with 4%, and Mary Bono Mack at 2%.
It seem doubtful any of these big names will run anyway. The Republican sacrificial lamb to Feinstein will probably end up being someone who has less to lose politically, financially, or reputationally than any of these folks.
We haven't had a ton of good news for Mitt Romney in our 2012 Republican polling to date so far this year but he gets some in California. He leads there with 22% to 18% for Newt Gingrich, 16% for Sarah Palin, 15% for Mike Huckabee, 10% for Ron Paul, 3% for Tim Pawlenty, 2% for Mitch Daniels, and 1% for John Thune.
Leading in California is a big deal for Romney. It suggests that if he can make it to Super Tuesday more or less tied for the nomination he really has a potential to take the lead that day and never look back from there if he can complement strong wins in northeastern states that should be friendly ground like Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York with western states like Arizona where we found him leading last week, Colorado, and California.
Romney interestingly has the lowest favorability of the top candidates with conservatives in California at 61%, well behind Palin's 75%, Huckabee's 71%, and Gingrich's 66%. But despite that he's still actually in first place on the horse race with conservatives, albeit by a slim margin. That suggests some willingness by California Republicans, maybe more so than in other places, to go with the candidate who can actually win in the fall rather than the one who just fires them up the most.
Palin has the highest overall favorability of the Republicans at 63%, followed by Huckabee at 61%, Romney at 59%, and Gingrich at 56%. Despite that Palin is just third as the choice for the 2012 nominee, making this yet another state where there's a disconnect between Republicans' affection for Palin and their inclination to think she'd make a good nominee for the party.
Full results here