WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic candidates are clinging to narrow leads over their Republican rivals in two key California races with less than three weeks to go until November 2 elections, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer's lead over Republican Carly Fiorina among likely voters in California is only one point, 46 percent to 45 percent, down from a four-point advantage early this month.
Boxer is a key ally of President Barack Obama, who is to campaign for her and other Democrats next week in California. Fiorina is a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
California is seen by pollsters as one of three Democratic-leaning states the Republicans need to win to have any chance of taking control of the Senate.
Upset at high unemployment, U.S. voters are likely to hand control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans, dealing a blow to the president and his economic reform agenda. But the Senate might stay in Democratic control.
Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said the latest poll, coupled with a similar survey earlier this month, shows the races are showing stability. "California is trending Democratic although the races are close," he said.
Friday's poll found Democrat Jerry Brown's lead over Republican Meg Whitman in the race to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as California governor is four points -- 48 percent to 44 percent among likely voters.
That's slightly narrower than the lead of 50 percent to 43 percent he held in a poll taken between October 2-4.
Brown, a former governor and familiar face in state politics for 40 years, is likely benefiting from California's status as a heavily Democratic state.
Whitman is a billionaire and former eBay CEO who has spent at least $140 million of her own money on her campaign.
The fight between Brown and Whitman has resulted in a number of personal attacks. Brown was forced to apologize over an audio tape in which a campaign aide suggested Brown call Whitman a "whore" over the idea of wanting to cut a deal with union officials to protect their pensions.
"Brown does have a pretty stable although not massive lead over Whitman. ... It may be that she's reaching a wall where additional spending is not necessarily yielding additional voters," said Julia Clark of Ipsos.
Enthusiasm about voting in California is higher on the Republican side than among Democrats. Eighty-one percent of Republicans said they are certain to vote compared to just 65 percent of Democrats.
All 435 House seats and 37 of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs nationally in an election seen as a referendum on Obama's first two years in office.
Californians are notably unhappy at the state's economic and budgetary problems, with 77 percent reporting they believe the state is on the wrong track. This rises to 89 percent among Republicans.
CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE
In good news for environmentalists and renewable energy companies, 46 percent of likely voters said they oppose a ballot measure suspending California's climate change law, while 35 percent are in favor.
However, 19 percent of likely voters had not made up their minds or declined to give their opinion on the measure.
The proposal would suspend the state's climate change law until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent or less for four straight quarters. The existing law requires California to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The poll data was based on the wording of the question as it will appear on voters' ballots. A Reuters story on the climate issue, based on a Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier this month, was withdrawn last week because the poll question used language obtained from an incorrect official source.
The Ipsos poll of 601 registered voters, including 448 who said they are likely to vote, was taken from October 12-14.
The full survey of registered voters has a margin of error of 4 percentage points while the smaller sample of likely voters has a margin of error of 4.6 points.
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