Campbell’s gay-marriage support hurt him at polls

Tom Campbell still would have lost his Republican primary for U.S. Senate even if he didn’t support gay marriage, according to a survey of GOP voters. But he probably wouldn’t have been trounced as badly as he was.

That’s the conclusion of a poll commissioned by the National Organization for Marriage, a group opposing same-sex marriage that ran an ad campaign targeting Campbell on the issue.

Even though most voters didn’t know Campbell’s position, there was a significant minority who did. The poll showed that the latter turned against Campbell in large numbers.

The post-election poll of 300 GOP primary voters found that those who voted for Campbell’s opponents were more aware of his gay-marriage stand. Of the voters who supported Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, or former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, three in 10 said Campbell’s opposition to Proposition 8 was a factor in their decision.

The QEV Analytics telephone poll was conducted on June 8 and 9. It lists a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 points.

Just over three-quarters of respondents said they favored Proposition 8, the initiative that ended, at least temporarily, California’s experiment in gay marriage. Proposition 8 was approved by voters in 2008 after a bruising election. The issue remains contested in the courts.

Sixty percent of those who responded said they supported Fiorina, 21 percent voted for DeVore, and only 18 percent for Campbell.

But the results showed the Campbell still lost among the 19 percent of respondents who said they opposed Proposition 8. Fiorina edged Campbell 41 percent to 36 percent among those voters. Only 14 percent supported DeVore, the most conservative candidate in the race.

The poll also found that only 14 percent of primary voters knew Campbell’s gay marriage stance before the election. NOM said that 16 percent of those who voted for Campbell mistakenly believed he opposed Prop. 8.

But the group also claimed that only 2 percent of likely primary voters knew of Campbell’s stance back in March. NOM sponsored a television and robocall campaign designed to make voters aware of his stance on gay marriage. 

“California voters who learned about Tom Campbell’s opposition to Prop. 8 were appalled,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM. “NOM was first out of the box in identifying Tom Campbell as a RINO Republican and we are confident that this is not the last time NOM can make a difference. It’s a really bad idea to vote for gay marriage if you are a Republican.”

Still, it’s unclear how many actual votes Campbell lost. Given that voters likely to be turned off by his marriage stance were likely to be more conservative on other issues as well, they were also the least likely group to support him.

Campbell was also badly outspent by Fiorina. She consistently labeled him as a “Republican in Name Only” in her ads, though she focused more on fiscal issues.

His position on gay marriage and other social issues may help explain why Campbell won four Bay Area counties centered around the Silicon Valley. In San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, Campbell beat Fiorina soundly, 47 percent to 35 percent, with DeVore taking 16 percent.

The area is a former stomping ground for both. Fiorina made waves as HP CEO between 1999 and 2005, a time when she was one of the most prominent executives in the Valley, though she was fired and left under a cloud of poor financial performance and boardroom acrimony.

Campbell held a pair of Silicon Valley congressional seats between 1988 and 2000 — an experience which perhaps serves as a microcosm of his political career. As a two-term incumbent in 1992, he lost his own primary to a more conservative Bruce Herschensohn — who was then walloped by a newcomer named Barbara Boxer.

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