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Kucinich, Colbert and the Democratic straw poll

By Aaron Kinney
Tuesday, October 16th, 2007 at 3:55 pm in Aaron Kinney, Democratic Party.

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[Updated Thursday, Oct. 18, at 10 a.m. See below.]

We tried to talk with presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, yesterday for an article on a straw poll the San Mateo County Democratic Party is holding Sunday afternoon at the San Mateo County Event Center.

Kucinich is the only presidential candidate who has agreed to appear in person at the event.

But as his press secretary informed us, Kucinich was taping an episode of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central. The host of the talk show parody, Stephen Colbert, had noticed the inordinate number of objects Kucinich has claimed on various occasions to carry in his suit pockets, including a copy of the Constitution, The Prayer of Saint Francis, an AFL-CIO membership card and a reusable tea bag.

Colbert — who has referred to the diminutive congressman as both a leprechaun and Rumplestiltskin — challenged Kucinich to come on his show and empty his pockets. Kucinich was savvy enough to accept the invitation and play along with the conceit.

Below is the clip from Monday’s show. Colbert introduced Kucinich as hailing from Ohio’s 10th congressional district, “which can only be entered through the back of the professor’s wardrobe.”

On a related note, there wasn’t enough room to mention it in yesterday’s article, but the results of Sunday’s straw poll, which are unofficial, could be more representative of how California Democrats wind up voting Feb. 5 than some might think.

San Francisco is viewed nationally as a liberal hotbed. And it is. But other parts of the Bay Area, including San Mateo County, skew more to the center.

In the 2004 presidential election, for instance, Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., received 54.4 percent of the vote statewide, compared to 44.4 percent for President George W. Bush, the Republican incumbent.

In San Francisco, the margin of victory was overwhelming. Kerry took in 83.4 percent of the vote, while Bush got just 15.3 percent, according to election statistics compiled by the California Secretary of State. In San Mateo County, however, the vote was much closer: 69.7 percent for Kerry and 29.4 percent for Bush. It was still a rout, of course, but the margin of victory was smaller than it was in Alameda and Marin counties.

As Andrew Byrnes, chair of the county Democratic Party, and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, pointed out, San Mateo County is generally more representative of the rest of the state than San Francisco.

San Mateo County has cities, suburbs, farmland and coastal towns. There are political microclimates, from the blue-collar, ethnically diverse community of Daly City to the wealthy enclave of Hillsborough on the other. And there are the biotech and high-tech industries.

“If you’re looking to see how Democrats in the state are likely to vote, I think I would look first to San Mateo County, rather than San Francisco,” Byrnes said.

Tickets for the straw poll, which run $25 apiece, are still available. For more information, visit the county Democrats’ Web site.

UPDATE: In response to the comment below — while we think San Mateo County is more representative of California as a whole than it might appear at first blush, we want to be careful not to overstate San Mateo County’s importance as a bellwether, historically or in the present tense.

Continuing to use the 2004 presidential election as an example, San Mateo County had fewer votes for Bush than Alameda and Marin counties, but more than Contra Costa, Napa, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties, making the Peninsula more liberal in that instance than many surrounding communities.

But Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties in particular don’t have the cultural or geographic diversity that San Mateo County has and less reflective of Democratic territories statewide.

The point we want to make is that, for those from outside the Bay Area who view the region as uniformly liberal, and for those from around here who are used to thinking of San Mateo County as irrelevant to national politics, Sunday’s event could yield some surprising results.

Of course, if Kucinich ends up winning the straw poll with 30 percent of the vote, we’ll know to take the results with a grain of salt.

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One Response to “Kucinich, Colbert and the Democratic straw poll”

  1. George Kelly Says:

    How far back does San Mateo go as a bellwether? Have its views been more in or out of line with the rest of the state for a long time?

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