President Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Photo by Michael Vadon
President Donald Trump on the campaign trail. Photo by Michael Vadon

In summary

California Republicans shouldn’t count on the president to hold back a blue wave, insiders say in a new survey.

It’s not news that President Trump isn’t popular in California: a July survey found voters here disapprove of him by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Still,  he’s wildly popular among most Republicans, so a presidential visit to the Golden State would surely provide an electoral lift to the state’s struggling GOP candidates, right?

Wrong, says California’s political class. In a survey of state political insiders, we asked which surrogate campaigner would be more helpful to the candidates of his own party: President Trump or former President Obama.

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Roughly two-thirds of Target Book Insider Track Survey respondents said that the bigger political boost would come from Obama. Earlier this month, he made a tour through California’s swing congressional districts, stumping for Democratic candidates including Harley Rouda, Katie Porter, Gil Cisneros, and Josh Harder.

Only a quarter of respondents believed that Trump would be equally or more helpful. The president has yet to visit California this campaign season, so it’s an untested proposition. One of his sons made a quick stop last week though.

Our Insider Track Survey participants are paid subscribers to Target Book, and feature a who’s-who of state operatives from both major parties, plus lobbyists, labor and business groups, and others whose livelihoods depend on being politically in-the-know. But it isn’t just political insiders who worry about the Trump effect in California. When San Diego-area Republican congressional candidate Diane Harkey was asked last week about the seal of approval she’s received from the president, she hedged.

“I think anybody would be proud to have a presidential endorsement, and I am,” she said, touting the effect of last year’s federal tax legislation on the San Diego area economy. But her tone wasn’t exactly celebratory. “He supported me, I don’t know what to say here…I wish he’d tweet less.”

Even so, Trump is here to stay for the remainder of his first term, according to the same insiders. Though an anonymous New York Times op-ed writer and (reportedly) Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein have both floated the idea of invoking the 25th amendment to eject the commander in chief from office—and Democratic activists have clamored for impeachment—a mere 8 percent of respondents predicted that the president will be removed before 2020 one way or another.

And of the remaining 92 percent, 1-in-4 predict he will be re-elected.

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Ben Christopher

Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written...