Could Trump’s declining Central Valley numbers affect down-ballot races?

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — President Trump is losing support in some of his supposed California strongholds, according to a poll out this week from the Institute of Governmental Studies. That’s even the case in the Central Valley — perhaps the strongest of Trump’s West Coast strongholds.

That shouldn’t matter much to the president here in deep blue California, which is overwhelmingly likely to vote Democratic in the November election. But could his alleged slippage have an impact further down the ballot? Possibly, say two local political analysts.

Trump’s support among conservative voters has begun to erode, battered by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic chaos it has produced, according to the new poll. The survey, which was administered in late July to more than 8,000 Californians, gave Democrat Joe Biden a 39 point lead over the president — which, if it were to hold, would be a record, and by a substantial margin.
But Trump , some may reason, will always have the Central Valley.

Not like he once did, if the poll is to be believed. Trump’s approval rating has fallen from 44 percent in January to 37 percent now, and he has seen a significant drop among rural voters and those who identify themselves as moderate conservatives.

“This is really the first time that we have noticed a decline in Trump’s performance ratings in California overall and now we’re seeing it in the Central Valley,” said Mark DiCamillo, who designed and supervised the poll. for UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

What does that mean to candidates in down ballot races? What does it mean, for example, in the 21st Congressional District race between Democrat TJ Cox, the incumbent, and Republican David Valadao, who lost his seat to Cox by just 862 votes two years ago?

CSUB political science professor Ivy Cargile says Trump’s tumble in the poll absolutely could have an impact.

“The top of the ticket matters because it can influence the down ballot races, especially if some of the candidates are in tough spots,” she said. “Now, where I think it will play a role would be in the race between TRJ Cox and David Valadao. If Trump’s numbers were a bit higher then I think that it would be imperative to the Cox campaign to really buckle down and strategize in regards to being able to link Donald Trump to David Valadao.”

Cargile’s colleague, Jeanine Kraybill, said the down ballot fallout will be much less severe in the 23rd Congressional District for Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the well-funded House minority leader and Trump ally.

“He’s a brand,” she said of McCarthy. “And so this might maybe ding him a couple of percentage points. But I think he would absolutely win. I have no doubt that he would keep his seat and I think any drop will not be major for him.”

And McCarthy can afford the loss of a couple of percentage points. The closest race of his career was two years ago, when he won 63.7 percent of the vote against Democrat Tatiana Matta. His 2020 foe, Democrat Kim Mangone of Quartz Hill, is up against a political Goliath.

But we ought to take all of this with a grain of salt — a big one. Political winds can change fast, and as Trump showed us two years ago, they’re fallible.

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