| The latest Field Poll is out, and it shows a virtual tie in the race for governor. Jerry Brown has 44%, Meg Whitman has 43%, and 13% are undecided or backing someone else.
In itself, that's not so bad for Brown. Whitman has been dominating the airwaves since February, and won a big victory in her primary race, whereas the Brown campaign has been relatively silent. Yet Brown has a better favorable rating - 42-40 - than Whitman, who has a slightly negative rating at 40-42.
The problem comes when you drill down into the numbers and find that Brown is in trouble with some important segments of the electorate.
Young voters - those of us age 18-39 - support Whitman, 45-42, while voters over 50 back Brown by a similar margin.
Brown's lead among Latinos is just 11 points - 50-39. And Decline to State voters, who lean Democratic, give Brown another narrow lead, 42-39.
It's not easy for any Democrat to win an election without strong support from young voters and Latinos, and with a wider margin among independent voters. Brown may well be able to pull out a narrow victory here, but it's going to be a very bumpy ride between now and November 2, with no room for error.
The numbers for younger voters and Latinos are influenced by the fact that Field is polling likely voters - which indicates that a LOT of young people and Latinos are planning to sit out the November election, at least as of right now. Younger voters usually go strongly for the Democratic candidate, and although Field's definition of "young" is a bit broad, reaching into the more right-wing Generation X cohort, it's still a concern that Whitman has a lead here at all.
With Latino voters, Brown should be doing better than an 11 point lead. Whitman got caught up in an ugly Republican primary that featured a lot of Latino bashing. But perhaps Whitman has so far avoided the worst effects of it. If she can hold Brown to 50% among Latino voters, she has a real shot at winning.
Brown needs to ramp up his outreach to Latino voters, whose interests he has championed for over 40 years, and he needs to get working on articulating a clear vision of California's future that can inspire the younger voters who turned up to elect Obama in 2008 to show up and elect Brown in 2010. He could also embrace Prop 19, the cannabis legalization initiative, which is one of the few options we've got to drive younger voters to the polls this fall, in the absence of an inspiring Obama-style campaign, which nobody really expects Brown to run.
Jerry Brown clearly has some work to do to win this election. He needs to do better with these core Democratic constituencies to have a better chance of holding on a beating Whitman. Brown may be hoping that a barrage of negative ads will make the difference, but all that will do is reinforce the current likely voter universe and won't draw out the younger voters and Latinos (an overlapping group, to be sure) he needs to put some distance between himself and Whitman.