While recent surveys have consistently found Bernie Sanders winning in the Golden State, his lead may not be as big as some might think.
A new poll released by Monmouth University on Thursday found 24% of likely California Democratic primary voters supporting Sanders, compared to 17% for former Vice President Joe Biden. The 7-point gap is far narrower than the 18-point lead the Public Policy Institute of California recorded Sanders having on Tuesday.
The viability of Biden's campaign has come into question after poor fourth and fifth place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, though Californians don't appear too fazed by those results. More than 3 in 4 respondents said the outcomes of those elections did not really change their thinking about the upcoming March 3 primary.
But there is room for concern for Biden given his small ground operation and lack of attention to key regions.
As of mid-February, Sanders has 22 offices and 105 staff in the state, while Biden has just one office and at least 20 paid staff members. Michael Bloomberg has a larger footprint with about 20 offices in the state and 400 paid California staff members. Elizabeth Warren has three offices and more than 48 paid workers.
While Biden has visited the state frequently, he hasn't returned to California since Jan. 10. Buttigieg is the only candidate with more California appearances than Biden, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of candidate visits.
Bloomberg has steadily gained ground and has support from 13% of the poll's respondents, according to Monmouth, though that support could drop after what was widely seen as a poor debate performance in Nevada on Wednesday. He is closely followed by Warren at 10% and Pete Buttigieg at 9%.
Tom Steyer polled at 5%, Amy Klobuchar got 4% and Tulsi Gabbard came in last at 2%. An additional 13% of likely voters are undecided and do not lean toward any particular candidate.
With the exception of Sanders and Biden, no candidate secured at least 15% support in either poll. Sanders was the only one above 15% in PPIC's poll.
The threshold is critical, as 144 of California's 494 delegates up for grabs will be awarded based on a candidate who can get 15% of the statewide vote. An additional 271 will be awarded to those who cross that level within a given congressional district. The remaining 79 delegates are unpledged party leaders who won't get to vote on the first ballot at the Democratic National Committee's nominating convention this summer.
To win the nomination outright, a candidate needs 1,991 pledged delegates. Sanders was the only candidate on the debate stage in Nevada on Tuesday night who said the candidate with the largest share of delegates should win the nomination, even if that's not the necessary majority. All other Democrats on stage left open the possibility of a contested convention that allows someone to win even if they don't have the largest share of primary votes.
The Monmouth University Poll reported a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points based on responses from 408 registered voters who are likely to vote in California's March 3 Democratic presidential primary election.
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