The air war tightens the California Senate race 

As I’ve not been shy about saying, I have an emotional attachment to the California Senate race. I live here, I’ve always lived here, and in fact Democrat Barbara Boxer was first elected to the Senate when I was first beginning to follow politics, back when I was 14 years old.

So I knew the television ad campaigns would make or break the race for Republican Carly Fiorina, and sure enough, we’re now seeing a tightening trend in the polling.

Boxer had a good September. She ran up leads as big as nine points, and was as strong as she’s been since the year begin. But the last three polls, taken as the air war has been in effect, have all been close: SurveyUSA 46-43 Boxer, MoE 3.9. Reuters/Ipsos 49-45 Boxer, MoE 4.5. And now Rasmussen 49-46 Boxer, MoE 4.

It’s always remarkable for three polls to show such similar results, all showing three or four point leads, and nearly identical lead probabilities. It’s 66/34 race if I run my projection methodology on these polls, which means the ad war has tightened the situation from a quarter chance for Fiorina to third.

Some analysts have said that California is immune to the TEA party effect seen in other states. I don’t see how that can be objectively confirmed when the Sarah Palin-backed Fiorina has kept Boxer from reaching a single double digit lead since the Field poll ending January 17. This is a tight race, this has been a tight race, and it seems reasonable to guess that the candidate with the larger and more effective television ad campaign will pull through.

In funding her side of the air war Barbara Boxer has the benefit of two large fundraisers held on her behalf by the President. Carly Fiorina has the benefit of a successful business career giving her the personal means to spend. Both have outside groups behind them. Either one can win this. Boxer just hasn’t gotten the traction against Fiorina she’s had against other Republicans she had in 1998 and 2004.

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Neil Stevens

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