Poll suggests Newsom and Villaraigosa will face off in California's gubernatorial race

While there is still plenty of time until the June 5th primary election that will determine, among other things, who will be the final two candidates for California's gubernatorial race in the November general election, there appears to be two clear frontrunners. A recent poll indicates that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appear to be far ahead of the pack.

Unlike many states, California uses a nonpartisan blanket primary to whittle a large field of candidates down to two finalists regardless of party affiliation. Given the Golden State's recent partisan leanings, this has had a tendency to result in two Democrats squaring off against one another in general elections.

For example, the 2016 primary for one of the state's U.S. Senate seats resulted in two Democrats advancing to the general election, with then-Attorney General Kamala Harris facing off against then-Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Harris ultimately prevailed in the general election.

The Public Policy Institute of California's current gubernatorial poll shows Newsom with 23 percent of support and Villaraigosa with 21 percent. Treasurer John Chiang, a Democrat, is in a distant third place with 9 percent, while two Republicans are slightly behind him. State Representative Travis Allen has 8 percent of the support, while businessman John Cox has 7 percent. All other candidates are polling at 4 percent or lower.

Given that the primary election is still four months away, none of the candidates are publicly taking the poll results very seriously. Several campaigns even pointed out that this particular poll could be somewhat flawed. Additionally, there are many voters who are still undecided.

Regardless, the poll does confirm the conventional wisdom that Newsom and Villaraigosa would be leading the way. Newsom is considered to be appealing to liberals, particularly in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Meanwhile, Villaraigosa is presumed to be popular among the state's significant Hispanic population.

Incumbent Governor Jerry Brown is forbidden from running again due to term limits. While Newsom has been serving as Lieutenant Governor under Brown, the governor will almost certainly remain neutral from an official perspective. Regardless, it is not clear if his endorsement would have a major impact.

What could have an impact on the race between now and June is a scandal or a significant stumble on the campaign trail. Otherwise, another candidate could soon gain steam at the expense of one or both of the frontrunners.