Jerry Brown (D)
Gavin Newsom (D)
Dianne Feinstein (D)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-The California governor's race is state Attorney General Jerry Brown's to lose given his high profile in the Golden State, leading political observers told Legal Newsline.
While Brown, who served as California governor from 1975 to 1983, has not officially entered the race to succeed Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, this week he filed preliminary paperwork allowing him to officially explore a run and raise serious cash.
In interviews Thursday, analysts said Brown, 71, is undoubtedly the frontrunner going into the 2010 governor's race.
Steve Kinney, a partner at the national polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, said Brown is the "odds-on-favorite" going into the Democratic primary unless U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., decides to run for governor.
"The only person I think could knock Brown out is Dianne Feinstein," he said in an interview on the sidelines of the annual California Target Book Sacramento Conference.
The only declared Democrat in the race is San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, whom Kinney said poses no real political threat to Brown.
"The dislike for mayors of the two big cities -- San Francisco and L.A. -- has shown up on several occasions," he said. "There is a certain prejudice against the mayor of San Francisco or the mayor of Los Angeles."
As for the leading Republicans in the race -- state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, former Congressman Tom Campbell and former EBay CEO Meg Whitman -- Kinney said they don't have near the name recognition that Brown has, but that could be overcome if the GOP pumps a lot of money into the race.
"Jerry has a very soft underbelly based on some of his past antics that can make him vulnerable, but if the election were held today, Jerry would win," Kinney said, noting that many voters simply don't know the other candidates.
The publisher of the California Target Book, which tracks and handicaps races in the state, agreed Brown is well positioned going into the election cycle.
Target Book Publisher Allan Hoffenblum told Legal Newsline that Brown is looking like a "very strong" primary candidate, who would go up against a potentially "very weak" opponent in Newsom.
He said there are broad concerns that Newsom would be unable to garner much widespread support outside the San Francisco-Bay Area and raise the money needed to mount a serious campaign.
"Of course, the big question mark out there is: Does Dianne Feinstein change her mind and enter the race?" Hoffenblum said. "Some people say that could still happen."
Speaking to the conference, Hoffenblum noted that in general the state GOP is struggling amid a drop in Republican registration and an increase in decline-to-state voters.
"I think it's going to be a very, very difficult road on the Republican front if they don't do something about registration, something to appeal to decline-to-state voters, many of whom are Latinos and Asians who have not been voting Republican for the last four election cycles," he said.
He told attendees that there are eight congressional seats and 13 state Assembly seats he sees as competitive. Of them, most are held by Republicans.
"I think this is going to be when we find out if the Republican Party has any life left in it whatsoever as far as being a statewide competitive party," Hoffenblum said.