What the California primary tells us about November

What the California primary tells us about November

A few days ago, Daily Kos Elections’ David Nir noted a SurveyUSA poll finding Rep. Scott Peters trailing Republican Carl DeMaio, 51-44, but observed:

In California’s recently concluded primary, Peters took 42 percent of the vote. If he only performs 2 points better in November, that would be a remarkably small increase compared to the kinds of jumps in Democratic performance we saw between the primary and the general in 2012. Yes, the fall surge will be smaller for Democrats in a midterm year, but the smallish 5-point bump in CA-52 last time was at least partly due to the heavily contested fight between Peters and fellow Democrat Lori Saldana, something we didn’t have this time.

I thought the observation about the relationship between Democratic primary voting in 2012 and the final margin was interesting, since we see a similar effect in Washington state. Democrats basically perform a fairly consistent two points better in November than they do in their “top-two” primary, which is similar to California’s (e.g., everyone runs on the same ballot, and the top two vote-getters proceed to the fall election).

I hadn’t really paid attention to the relationship, if any, between California’s primary and the final results. I’d just assumed that because California’s primary is so much earlier than Washington’s, the relationship would be weak.

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