Barack Obama's lead in California stays solid, poll shows

By By Cathleen Decker

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, May 29 2012 9:53 a.m. MDT

In this May 23, 2012, photo, President Barack Obama speaks to supporters during a campaign fundraiser in Denver.

Ed Andrieski, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Read more: Romney ready to claim GOP nomination after Texas

LOS ANGELES — The potent mix of voters that has powered Democratic presidential victories in California for a generation overwhelmingly supports President Barack Obama's bid for re-election, forming a demographic wall blocking Republican Mitt Romney from the biggest pot of electoral votes available in November.

By huge margins, women, independents, moderates and Latinos are arrayed against the presumptive Republican nominee, according to a University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters that found Obama leading overall 56 percent to 37 percent.

Although Romney has made up ground nationally since the primary season essentially ended in April, he has not improved his standing in California against Obama. The presidential race has been frozen in polls dating to last year, with Romney's California support substantially below Obama's among the vast majority of voter groups. Obama was winning at least 6 of every 10 women and moderates, and three-quarters of Latino voters.

Moreover, Obama's voters were mobilized by support for him _ unlike many of Romney's voters. Less than half of Romney backers said they were casting a ballot in order to vote for him, while the majority was doing so to vote against Obama. Among Obama voters, 83 percent were voting for the president, and 15 percent were motivated by disdain for Romney.

The indifferent embrace of Romney among many Republicans could be seen in findings on the June 5 Republican primary. Romney walloped the all-but-dormant field of candidates on the ballot (he is expected to clinch the nomination in Tuesday's Texas primary, exceeding the 1,144 delegates needed). But still, only 6 in 10 conservatives and half of moderates _ among Republican primary voters _ were siding with Romney.

As much as anything, the poll demonstrated anew how Democratic success in the state has been driven by the ascent of demographic groups allied with the party. Women make up 53 percent of registered voters; Latinos and independent voters _ those who register as unaligned with any party _ each form 20 percent. Their backing of Obama was typical of their support for most Democratic candidates, particularly at the top of the ticket.

The last Republican presidential nominee to win California was George H.W. Bush, whose narrow 1988 victory came before Latinos and independents rose in prominence. Since then, the state has been plundered for campaign donations but virtually ignored every fall, a fate not expected to change this year.

The demographic forces were personified by Josefina Gonzalez, an independent voter from La Puente who said she was strongly committed to Obama. Asked why, in a follow-up interview, she replied: "Pretty much everything."

"The way he has handled the economy. The jobs going up. The unemployment going down. The foreign policy — I'm a veteran, so knocking the troops out of Iraq and troops coming out of Afghanistan, that's good," said Gonzalez, an active-duty soldier for two years who is now, at 27, a stay-at-home mother.

As for Romney, she dismissed him as akin to other Republicans.

"He would do what everyone does — Bush and everyone. He's going to help the corporate America, like everyone else," she said. "He's going to work for them, pretty much, not for everyone."

Obama's recently announced support for same-sex marriage — and Romney's backing of a constitutional amendment banning it — had only a limited effect on the choices for November, and that accrued to the president's benefit.

Only 20 percent of California voters said the issue would serve as a litmus test for their general election decision; of those, 51 percent sided with Obama and 43 percent with Romney. More than a third of voters who disagreed with Obama's position were still in his camp; 15 percent of those who disagreed with Romney's view planned to cast ballots for him.

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