| In another totally unsurprising outcome, the Field Poll has found what we all expected to be true: the US Senate race will be a close one. Boxer and her GOP challengers are essentially tied at this point, though who that challenger will be is still up in the air:
March 2010 (January '10)
Campbell 28 (30)
Fiorina 22 (25)
DeVore 9 (6)
Undecided 41 (39)
DeVore is still behind, but might be able to take some comfort from these numbers, as he's the only one to show any improvement. Campbell has a lead, but it's not large, and with 41% of Republicans still undecided, it's anyone's race.
March 2010 (January '10)
Boxer 43 (48)
Campbell 44 (38)
Boxer 45 (50)
Fiorina 44 (35)
Boxer 45 (51)
DeVore 41 (34)
Boxer's favorables are down from 48% in January to 38% in March, and unfavorables are up from 39% in January to 51% in March.
That shouldn't come as a surprise. Boxer has been getting beaten up by the GOP candidates but has yet to launch her own response. And Boxer suffers, though no fault of her own, for being part of the failed Senate Democratic caucus.
Those numbers will change once the health care bill is done, which looks increasingly likely to happen this month. Not only will it help show Californians that the Senate Democrats can get things done and therefore boost Boxer's ratings, it will help bring more voters into the "likely" voter camp.
In fact, that may well be what explains these results. The Field Poll talked to "likely voters," a universe that has become much more Republican-friendly in recent months as the failure of President Obama and the Democratic Congress to deliver on its agenda frustrates the Democratic base and drives away the more infrequent voters. That alone could account for the shifting general election matchup numbers.
Once Democrats have racked up more accomplishments - the jobs bill passed yesterday, and when health care gets done, other issues can be tackled - then more of those voters will move back into the "likely" camp, and Boxer's numbers will improve.
What this poll shows, then, is not just that Boxer will indeed have the close race she and her team have been expecting and planning to win for some time. It also shows that key to her re-election victory will be turning out Democrats to vote in November. Neither Campbell nor Fiorina can win unless a substantial number of California voters stay home in November.
Abstention, not apostasy, is the real challenge Boxer faces. If she can drive up turnout, she is still in the driver's seat for November.