A new Los Angeles Daily News/J.Wallin Opinion Research Poll released on Tuesday found that developer Rick Caruso now holds a slight 3% lead over Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) in the LA Mayoral election, marking a large turnaround following Bass’ double digit leader only a few months ago.
Caruso had an early lead in polls before Bass surged in the weeks ahead of the June primary election. In the primary vote, Bass won 43.1% of the vote, with Caruso coming in with 36%, and Councilman Kevin de Leon getting a distant third with 7.8%. Bass continued adding to her lead during the summer, with a poll in late August showing her 12 points ahead of Caruso in polling.
However, Bass quickly fell from grace for many voters news of scandals, a strong debate performance by Caruso, and with Caruso pushing advertising hard. Specifically, Bass was rocked by allegations that she received a scholarship at USC in exchange for helping pass legislation in Washington, an unusual incident in which firearms were stolen from her house, and new questions over just how close she is to the Church of Scientology. With Bass failing to completely counter the barrage, a UC Berkeley poll released earlier this month showed that Bass had fallen to within 3 points of Caruso.
The racist recording scandal that has rocked LA in the past few weeks only worsened things for Bass. While both Caruso and Bass were civil in the third debate last week and had a rare moment of unity in calling for Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, and de Leon to resign for their parts in the scandal, Bass’ close association with Martinez, following Martinez even endorsing Bass for Mayor, quickly became a hindrance, especially after Martinez’s resignation last week.
That closeness backlash was reflected in Tuesday’s poll results. According to the poll, Caruso now leads Bass by a slight margin, 39.8% to 36.8%, with 23.6% remaining undecided. When factoring in margin of error, it shows that Caruso and Bass are essentially neck-to-neck at this point, marking a stunning turnaround for the Caruso campaign and leaving the Bass campaign, which has been scrambling for weeks, to try to reignite voters only a few weeks before election day.
The poll also showed a turnaround for Caruso on many issues. While prior polls had showed voters favoring Bass on issues like homelessness, Monday’s poll found that others favored Caruso’s views on the subject, along his plans to address inflation, city finances, and crime and public safety. Only one issue had both candidates tied, and that was the hot button issue of City Hall corruption, with both candidates polling at 31%.
Most surprising, however, was demographic support. While in previous months Caruso had struggled to nail down many demographics, with only Asian voters, Republicans, and those in the San Fernando Valley showing clear-cut support, Bass’ struggles since September, as well as Caruso’s large media push, especially amongst Latino voters has finally been showing results. According to the poll, 43.7% of Latino voters now favor Caruso, with only 29.4% in favor of Bass. Along with Asian support remaining strong for Caruso, with a 35.5%/29% difference, Caruso has also flipped White voter support, garnering 43.6% compared to 29.4% for Bass.
The polls shows that Bass now only leads with Black support, with a huge 57% to 19% advantage, and Democratic support, with 43.8% of Democrats favoring Bass, and 32.9% supporting Caruso. On Tuesday, Bass’ campaign spokesperson questioned the poll: “However, we all know the $80 million and counting Caruso has spent attacking Congresswoman Bass will certainly bring things closer. Money can’t change the fact this is a race between an anti-choice Republican billionaire who looks out for his friends and a pro-choice Democrat who’s always been on the people’s side.”
Caruso 3 points ahead
Despite that, election experts told the Globe on Wednesday that the latest poll is in line with how Bass has been dropping over the last several weeks.
“Bass is not having a great run up to the election,” explained Jan Ives, a Washington-based local election analyst, to the Globe on Wednesday. “She’s had to deal with Caruso’s barrage of ads, including that devastating Scientology one. She’s had to deal with the USC bribery accusations. She’s had to deal with the fact that Caruso has been a much stronger campaigner and debater than they thought. And now they have to deal with the fact that one of their largest supporters had been caught on tape making horrible racist things and basically dividing the city up with new Council lines.”
“Caruso isn’t exactly squeaky-clean himself, not by a longshot, but he’s coming out on top during all of this and his message is finally resonating with voters. A big thing that has won many over since last week was his calm and statesman-like approach to the scandal. Opponents had been hounding him on not having experience or not knowing what to do during a time like that, and Caruso did it flawlessly and even had statements out calling for the three Councilpeople to resign way before Bass, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others.”
“His stances on crime and homelessness are also kicking in too, as is his fiscal side. He has had higher marks than Bass on handling finances from the beginning, and now with a recession coming, people are thinking that the businessman might be a good choice to prepare for the harder times ahead. White, Asian, and Latino voters now think so to a large degree.”
“Bass is by no means out, and still probably has the better chance to win. But this poll is showing that she needs to do something fast, especially with early by-mail voting now out. The ball is in her court now to do something, and right now, she’s failing to keep up.”
Final polls before the November 8th election are expected in the next few weeks.
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