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Pollster says Simon camp must change

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday October 23, 2002

The chief pollster for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon said the campaign should focus more on Simon’s agenda and less on attacking Gov. Gray Davis, during an appearance at UC Berkeley Tuesday. 

“I think they’ve got to have Bill on TV more saying what he will do,” said Steven Kinney, a partner at the Alexandria, Va.-based firm of Public Opinion Strategies. “You can bash Gray, but you have to provide an alternative.” 

Simon spokesman Mark Miner said this is just what they’re doing. The campaign will “be out there highlighting the differences between the two candidates” through more public appearances and advertisements in coming weeks, and will present Simon as a clear alternative to Davis, he said. 

“It’s going to come down to the wire,” Miner predicted. 

A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll put Davis in the lead 41 to 31 percent. 

The Simon campaign declined to release its own internal polls, conducted by Kinney, but Kinney predicted a closer race than the PPIC poll indicated, arguing that whoever wins will take the election by less than a 10-point margin. 

“Simon is still in the ball game,” said Kinney, arguing that incumbents like Davis who are unable to hit 50 percent in the polls late in the campaign are often vulnerable. 

“He’s been able to keep Simon down, but he hasn’t been able to move himself up,” Kinney said of Davis. 

UC Berkeley political science professor Bruce Cain said Simon, who has stumbled repeatedly in the campaign, may climb within ten points on Election Day. But victory, he said, is unlikely. 

“I think Davis is still the odds-on favorite,” Cain said. “I think it would take a miracle for Simon to win.” 

Still, Kinney argued that high approval ratings for President Bush and low ratings for Davis have given Simon and other Republican candidates a chance this year in the traditionally Democratic-leaning California. 

“Bill Simon is just a factor, but not the major factor,” said Kinney. 

In August, the pollster asked likely voters if they thought Davis deserves re-election. Only registered Democrats and Latinos said the governor deserves another term. 

Of the major urban areas in California, only Los Angeles County, by a 49 to 47 margin, said Davis deserves re-election, and Bay Area voters disagreed, by a 47 to 45 margin, according to Kinney. 

Still, as Kinney acknowledged, the question did not ask voters if they would cast a ballot for Simon over Davis. 


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