California voters asked about a number of personal attributes and policy positions that just happened to relate to the candidates for statewide office seem a confused lot on the basis of the latest Field Poll.
For instance, voters prefer candidates that have lots of experience working with legislatures and candidates who have had many years of experience in the business world.
Supporting the national health care bill was as big a plus as supporting Arizona's possibly unconstitutional immigration law.
So while there's no mathematically "perfect" candidates, one can use a little addition and subtraction to model the chances in both the gubernatorial and senate races.
Attorney General and Democratic nominee Jerry Brown gets 32 points -- the equivalent of the "net positive" for having "experience working with legislative leaders -- while former eBay CEO Meg Whitman gets 31 points for having "many years of experience in the business world."
But Whitman gets 36 points off because voters are that much less likely to vote for a candidate who hasn't had many years of experience working with a legislator.
Running down the list, adding the 12 net positives and subtracting the 16 net negatives, where do they stand? Brown scored negative nine, with positives and negatives canceling out entirely (which might explain the level of excitement about his candidacy).
Whitman? Negative 85! At least according to one accounting -- Whitman has come out against the Arizona immigration law, at least in Spanish-language advertisements.
And that's with chalking up Brown as "wealthy," which he is relative to the average California voter but not to Whitman. Brown was also counted as "moderate," not "progressive," which would have actually improved his score.
The big deficit for Whitman hinges on disapproval with candidates that have poor voting records and candidates with no experience working with legislators -- with the latter a 68 point swing alone.
Of course, this is just a simplistic tally from someone who's more familiar with box scores and the Daily Racing Form. A Field Poll last week had Whitman and Brown in a statistical dead-heat, probably meaning that most voters either don't know or care where the candidates actually stand, so feel free to crunch the numbers and come to your own conclusions.
But even if you just count one point for a positive and one for a negative, the Democrats have a considerable edge. What's clear is that voters don't hate incumbents, and in fact prefer those with political experience over business experience; Brown should be hammering on Whitman's voting record while Whitman should definitely take moderate stances on health-care, abortion and immigration; and nobody really cares about how rich the candidates are or where they live.
Jackson West didn't have time to plug the numbers into a detailed spreadsheet, and knows the actual results will be much closer than this regardless of who wins.