Hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer said Tuesday he’s considering whether to run for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, but apparently he’s been mulling this for a while: A polling memo shows he commissioned a survey on his chances in mid-December.
And those chances aren’t bad, the poll found (which, no doubt, is why I was able to obtain the memo).
“Our December survey shows that Tom Steyer is clearly a strong contender to win the seat now open due to the announced retirement of Senator Barbara Boxer,” according to the memo from the firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. “Steyer’s profile, background and the storyline of his political and charitable involvement combine to form an attractive foundation for a candidacy.”
Lest anyone worry how healthy an opinion Steyer, 57, of San Francisco has of himself, the memo was addressed to “Team Cincinnatus” – presumably referring to the Roman statesman hailed as an icon of virtue, selflessness and humility after twice being chosen for, and then twice resigning, the mantle of dictator in order to protect the republic. Big sandals to fill, there.
The poll conducted from Dec. 18-22 asked 600 California registered Democrats and nonpartisan voters about their priorities; they named the environment – including climate change, the need for clean-energy jobs, and anti-pollution efforts – among the three top issues facing California’s next senator, along with education and income inequality. The poll also found:
- 75 percent would be likely to support a candidate who led the fight to pass Proposition 39, the successful 2012 ballot measure that closed a corporate tax loopholes for out-of-state companies and set some of the revenue aside for schools and clean-energy construction jobs;
- 79 percent would be likely to support a national leader in promoting new clean energy technologies;
66 percent would be likely to support a candidate who “believes climate change is the biggest challenge of our times”;
66 percent would be likely to support a successful businessman who understands how the global 21st Century economy works; and
65 percent say they would be likely to support a candidate who has committed to giving away the majority of his personal wealth to help the next generation get a fair shake.
All of these questions were asked without any mention of Steyer’s name. Afterward, when respondents were read an actual description of Steyer, 75 percent said they would be likely to support him, including 41 percent who said “very likely.”
“Much of the elements of this campaign are, of course, yet to be determined so soon after Senator Boxer’s announcement — particularly the precise make-up of the field, including Republicans since all candidates must attempt to qualify for the November general election by finishing in the top two,” the memo said. “What is clearly evident, however, is that unlike other wealthy and mainly self-funded candidates in the past, Tom Steyer possesses a very sound foundation among the voters in terms of the issues, and political and charitable activities that provide his motivation for running. That is a huge asset for him going forward.”
Read as: Voters won’t be quick to peg Steyer as a rich dilettante who’s trying to buy one of the state’s top political posts, like a certain someone whose name starts with “M” and ends with “eg Whitman.”
The memo also notes that depending on whether Republicans can field “a credible and financially resourced candidate” in June 2016’s top-two primary, California could wind up with two Democrats going head to head in that November’s general election. “In such a scenario, Tom Steyer’s profile can make him the best positioned candidate to have cross-over appeal, especially with non-partisan voters,” the memo concluded.
What does it all mean? Some context, after the jump…