SACRAMENTO – They’re the indecisive and waiters, middle of the roaders, inattentive, the late deciders. Just hours shy of polls opening, they’re still holding their noses and up for grabs — the greatest bumper crop of disaffected voters in California memory.
At Baron’s Books in Anaheim, employee Myra Vevenecia, a 39-year-old Orange County Republican, says, “I haven’t made up my mind on which one, only because they both seem pretty rotten. It’s not going to be Simon or Davis. I’m thinking, actually, the Green Party guy, I don’t know his name. That will be a first.”
Pollsters say they’ve never seen anything like it. An estimated 25 percent of California voters aren’t committing to either major candidate. A political analyst says the race for insurance commissioner may draw more votes.
“That is, to my mind, a shocking statistic,” says Stanford University political science professor Shanto Iyengar. “I think that’s extraordinarily high. It’s emblematic of the mud. A plague on both houses.”
“I am disgusted with both candidates,” explains Monika Weiler, 50, who works at a downtown San Francisco law office. “I was very unhappy with the way Davis handled the power crisis and Simon is too conservative. It truly is choosing the lesser of two evils.”
Weiler usually votes for Democrats and supported Davis in 1998. Now, in a mind that California needs change, she may try Simon.
Such sentiment swells Republican hopes for an upset. But Iyengar says, “Going out on a limb, I’d be shocked if Simon won. People are risk averse. Often, I think they prefer the devil they know to what they don’t.”
The newest Field Poll reveals that most Protestants favor Simon while a majority of Roman Catholics likes Davis. It holds that women, union members, African-Americans and Hispanics prefer Davis, while whites in general prefer Simon.
But beyond such certainties lies mainly mystery about Tuesday. What will the 25 percent – the independents, nonpartisans, the less informed and less interested, the disaffecteds – really do in the booth? Will the 8 percent who favor third parties remember Ralph Nader’s effect on the 2000 presidential race and lose their nerve? Will three percent who say they’ll leave the ballots blank really do it?
Among the undecideds, Jonathon Condit, a 33-year-old San Francisco waiter, still doesn’t know. Reflecting sentiment reported by pollsters, he says, “The whole campaign has turned me off to the election. I couldn’t get to the issues. You come away with a feeling not of the issues, but of who can sling the most mud.”
Political pros acknowledge it’s been that kind of campaign.
“When a candidate is calling the other a criminal and the other is calling his opponent an incompetent, there’s not a lot left for most voters,” says Dan Schnur, a Republican consultant and former aide to Gov. Pete Wilson.