California Attorney General Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisStefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate Florida woman faces five years in prison for threatening to kill Harris MORE (D) is the early Democratic front-runner to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), according to a poll obtained exclusively by The Hill.
Harris has a double-digit lead over a number of other Democrats, according to a late December poll conducted by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling for allies of one of the potential candidates.
The Democratic rising star, who announced she'd run for the Senate earlier this week, leads her Democratic opponents in an all-party primary that includes many of the candidates taking a look at the run.
One major caveat: Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), who says he's seriously considering a Senate bid, was not included in the poll.
Harris pulls 27 percent of support in the automated poll, with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer at 6 percent, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) at 7 percent and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) at 6 percent.
In California's unusual primary system the top two vote-getters of any party advance from the June primary to the general election, meaning in the blue state there's a possibility of two Democrats facing off in the general election — or potentially two Republicans if enough Democrats run and split up the vote.
But the poll suggests it's unlikely that two Democrats will face off if a respectable Republican mounts a challenge. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) leads, with 28 percent support, with 2012 GOP gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari at 12 percent, suggesting that a Republican with some statewide name identification would likely make a runoff.
The laundry list ballot test is unlikely to hold up once the final field of candidates shakes out, as many of the candidates on the list are unlikely to run and some others may throw their hats in the ring. Garcetti has already ruled out a campaign, and McClintock and Kashkari have made no moves toward a bid.
The poll also tested a scenario that swapped out Garcetti for Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who told The Hill earlier this week that she's unlikely to run now that Harris is in the race. In that poll Speier pulls support from Harris, another Northern California Democrat. While most of the other candidates stay in relatively similar positions, Speier pulls 8 percent and Harris drops to 22 percent.
That's a sign that the attorney general will be in much better position if other potentially strong Bay Area candidates like Speier, Steyer or Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) stay on the sidelines.
Villaraigosa's absence makes the poll difficult to interpret, however.
The former Los Angeles mayor had the highest name recognition of the potential field in an October poll from the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Times, with a 30 percent approval rating and a 22 percent disapproval rating. Harris was at 26 percent approval and 12 percent disapproval, while Garcetti was at 25 percent approval and 11 percent disapproval.
If Villaraigosa runs, his campaign could play on the traditional north-south California political split and potentially rally the state's large bloc of Hispanic voters to his corner. His approval rating with Hispanics was 52 percent to 18 percent disapproving in the October USC/LAT poll, while Garcetti was at 32 percent approval and 11 percent disapproval.
Sanchez and Steyer have said they're giving the race serious consideration. Steyer released polling of his own to show that he could be a strong contender on Thursday.
The automated poll of 869 registered voters was conducted by PPP from Dec. 29-30.