Last year California flirted with Republicans all year long before Barbara Boxer finally ended up dispatching Carly Fiorina by double digits. Next year it looks like the state will just skip the flirtation period. Dianne Feinstein is a good deal more popular than her colleague, sporting a 50/39 approval spread in comparison to Boxer's 45/47, and leads six high profile potential GOP opponents by margins ranging anywhere from 14 to 34 points.
It was not exactly a secret by the end of his time in office that Arnold Schwarzenegger was highly unpopular but the extent to which he polls badly against Feinstein is still a little bit staggering. She leads him by 34 points in a hypothetical contest, 59-25. In addition to having a unified Democratic base behind her she leads the former Governor by 36 points with independents and perhaps most remarkably holds him to only 52% of the Republican vote. Just 25% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of Schwarzenegger to 65% with an unfavorable one. It would be difficult for his political career to be much more over.
It might not be any coincidence that the Republican who does the best against Feinstein is also the one who's the least well known. 61% of voters don't know enough about Tom Campbell to have an opinion about him and he holds her to a 14 point lead at 51-37. He's the only one of the Republicans we tested who has net positive favorability numbers at 21% favorable and 18% unfavorable.
The most direct way of measuring Feinstein's strength relative to Boxer is how she does against Carly Fiorina. Boxer defeated Fiorina by 10 points in November and Feinstein doubles that margin of victory, leading her by 20 points at 55-35. The main difference between how the two Democratic Senators poll against Fiorina is with independents. A poll we did a week out from the election found Boxer ahead by 9 overall but down 17 points with independents. Feinstein flips that on its head, leading Fiorina by 16 points with that voter group. Fiorina continues to be very unpopular with California voters, only 29% of whom have a favorable opinion of her while 48% rate her negatively.
It's pretty much the same story with the rest of the Republicans we tested against Feinstein: voters don't like them and they trail by wide margins. Darrell Issa's favorability is 16/32 and he trails 54-33 in the head to head. Meg Whitman's personal numbers are 28/50 and she trails Feinstein 55-35 in the horse race. Think Steve Poizner would have made a better candidate against Jerry Brown last fall? Likely not much better- his favorability is 19/32 and he goes down 52-34 matched against Feinstein.
Dianne Feinstein is a formidable politician, popular in a state that chews up its politicians and spits them out. Add to that the state's strong dislike of pretty much every well known Republican within its borders and you have the formula for a California Senate race next year that will get a whole lot less attention than its 2010 iteration did.
Full results here