Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How you beat Henry Waxman

Of course it wouldn't be easy to beat Waxman. He's an entrenched incumbent with $1 million in the bank. Yet California's top two could conceivably make for an interesting election. The authors envisioned three candidates, one on the right, one on the left, and one in the center, with the idea that more people would go to the one in the center.

As the recent special election in CA-36 showed voters in each party will gravitate to the most conservative or most liberal candidates. This is often true even if the voter considers him or herself a moderate. People who join a party and identify themselves as a member tend to go for the party endorsed candidate. A certain chunk of independents will do so also, as the candidate usually is more well known or better funded. There just aren't enough voters who vote in the middle to finish in the top two.

Waxman's CA-33 was won by Jerry Brown last year 54%-40%. In a 3 way race, a Republican will get enough of the votes to advance against Waxman. A strong Blue Dog candidate like former Congresswoman Jane Harman would get a lot of Democratic votes in the less progressive part of the district, south of the airport, but not enough to beat him with Democrats. We'd end up with a Republican 38%, Waxman 32%, Harman 22%, Other Republican 2%. In the resulting two way race between Waxman and the Republican in November Waxman wins easily.

If the primary ends up with Waxman having 32% of the Democratic vote and Harman 22%, then Harman would need one of two scenarios.

The first is that 2-4 Republicans split the vote to advance. That's only likely in a Democratic district if the candidates are equally as good or equally as unknown. It's unlikely that you'll get two strong Republicans in a safe Democratic district. Harman's hope would be that 2 or 3 Republicans are so unknown that they randomly split the vote. Even that is no guarantee.

Last year's 7th district primary had four Republicans and two Democrats, including incumbent George Miller. Even though the four Republicans each got at least 5% of the Republican vote, the Democratic challenger, John Fitzgerald, only managed 9,188 votes to Rick Tubbs 15,245.

Last year's 13th district primary featured two Republicans, who split the GOP vote 55%-45%. Democrat Challenger Justin Jellinic still fell 1,500 votes shy of the leading Republican.

It can happen, however. In the 19th district the two Democrats split the vote. Even though there were four Republicans, two of them were top two. The big difference between this election and the others is that there was no incumbent to suck up all the Republican votes.

The second scenario, one the authors of Prop. 14 were counting on, is the Blue Dog Democrat would win enough Republican leaning votes to beat the Republican. I'm skeptical of this scenario, since Republicans will vote for a Republican if one is in the race. The big question is in a race with two strong incumbents, like Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, one of them could possibly pull it off.

In a fall election between Waxman and Harman, Republicans would vote Harman because she's more of a moderate and would like to see Henry Waxman defeated. It's just that getting there would be difficult for a Blue Dog without a strong base of support. If Republicans want to beat Waxman they'd need to rally around a Democratic moderate who still had "Democrat" next to his or her name.

While I consider that Republican vs. Democrat is the most likely outcome of all primaries, there are 53 of them in California. As the 2010 19th district shows, there's liable to be at least one that doesn't turn out that way. It'll be interesting to see how the two candidates of the same party go after the other party's voters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Redistricting 2001

Conventional wisdom has it that the Democrats blew California congressional redistricting when they controlled the whole procedure. They opted for a plan that protected their incumbents. They also protected the Republican incumbents as a result.

In 2000, Mike Honda took an open seat, while Adam Schiff, Jane Harman, and Susan Davis knocked off Republicans. These seats were viewed as vulnerable, as well as those of Lois Capps, Cal Dooley, and Ellen Tauscher, all of whom won re-election with less than 53% of the vote. So the Democrats had a lot to protect. And they didn't lose any of these seats in the next five elections. So Democrats can say they succeeded in their goal.

While a lot has been made of the Democrats not winning any Republican seats, but Barack Obama won 9 of the 20 districts Republicans held at the beginning of the decade. Since Al Gore won none of them, there clearly was eventual opportunity in the seats. Democrats may just not have had good enough candidates to knock off Republican incumbents.

There were several Democratic incumbents who, if their districts had moved to the right, could've been in real trouble. They were able to make 31 of the 33 seats at least D+7, Democratic enough that a move to the Republicans was unlikely to endanger the seats.

While all the closest ones moved to the left between 2000 and 2008, George Bush won two of the districts in 2004 and nearly won a third. The Democrats probably made too many of their seats safer than they needed to, but while there were a few close calls Democrats held the seats. Could the Democrats have foreseen California's leftward move or that there'd be two Democratic wave elections? If the answer is yes, then the Democrats definitely blew it. If not, then the Democrats successfully held the seats they had.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

California Congressional Ratings Changes

Roll Call has finally gotten around to taking a look at California and they’ve actually gone beyond conventional wisdom that the Republicans are going to lose six seats. Okay, they mention that, but they actually look a little deeper at the seats. They correctly identify that Capps, Costa, Cardoza, McNerney, Garamendi, and Loretta Sanchez as all being NRCC targets.

They also identify Republicans who are potentially in trouble. They go a little beyond, however, listing Darrell Issa and Buck McKeon as potential targets. Both of them have never been threatened in a race and they’re in districts where Meg Whitman won by at least ten points.

Here’s an update:

CD-3: Lean Democratic
John Garamendi has two opponents, Rick Tubbs and Kim Dolbow-Vann. Garamendi ran for an open safe seat in November 2009 and underperformed. He did better last year but this district is more than 5 points more Republican than his old district. I’m not sure either Republican will put up a serious challenge, but then I’m not sure Garamendi is a strong incumbent.

CD-7: Lean Republican
Dan Lungren is battle tested and this district is only two points more Democratic than the old one was. Ami Bera is back and his performance was actually pretty good in a Republican year.

CD-9: Lean Democratic
Jerry McNerney won this district, while Meg Whitman was winning it at the gubernatorial level. Republicans insist that if it hadn’t been for the American Independent party candidate, they would’ve beaten McNerney. Ricky Gill is only 24 but he’s been a fundraising machine.

CD-10: Likely Republican
Jeff Denham has been through tough races before, but his only congressional race was a breeze. He’s a great fundraiser and strikes me as the sort of guy who’ll be around a while. He’s in a district that is five points more Democratic and that can’t be discounted.

CD-16: Likely Democratic (was Lean Democratic)
Jim Costa barely won in 2010 and this district is 6-8 points more Republican than his old one. He doesn’t have an opponent yet, however, and you can’t beat someone with no one.

CD-21: Lean Republican (was Toss-up)
It now appears unlikely any Democratic incumbent will run here. This is the Central Valley, a Republican stronghold, and Fiorina cleaned up here. Expect a David Valadao-Michael Rubio match-up to be interesting.

CD-24: Lean Democratic
I might not be giving Lois Capps enough credit here, but this district is 8-9 points more Republican than her old one, and her opponent, former Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado figures to be formidable.

CD-26: Toss-up
I have no idea why people are so up on the Democrats in this seat. They have a small registration advantage, but Meg Whitman won this district. Democrats have two candidates officially in and the Republicans have none. The GOP is waiting on Elton Gallegly and for good reason. While Barack Obama was winning his district in 2008, Gallegly was sailing to a 58%-42% win. Around 20% of the Obama voters voted for Gallegly. So he has less to fear than other candidates. If Gallegly runs, it’ll move to Lean Republican. If not, I’ll leave it here until the candidates sort out.

CD-31: Toss-up (Was Likely Democratic)
The rating was dependent on Joe Baca running here. He chose the neighboring 35th. There’s definitely a Democratic lean to this district, but with no candidates currently running I’m classifying it as a toss-up. If Jerry Lewis does run here, it’ll be Lean Republican.

CD-36: Likely Republican
Mary Bono Mack’s district got a little more Republican. Any rep who survived 2006 and 2008 and has a more Republican district is fairly safe.

CD-41: Toss-Up (Was Lean Democratic)
This district has a definite Democratic lean, but Democrats don’t have a history of winning in Riverside County. I’d want to be more impressed with Mark Takano before declaring him a favorite.

CD-46: Likely Democratic
Loretta Sanchez is a strong favorite, but this district moved to the right.

CD-47: Lean Democratic (Was Likely Democratic)
This is an open seat that leans Democratic but now that Republican congressman Steve Kuykendall has joined the fray.

CD-52: Likely Republican
This is district that Meg Whitman won, but also one where the Democrats have strong candidates. It could easily be classified Leans Republican but Brian Bilbray is an incumbent and I think incumbents tend to be pretty safe in non-wave elections.

Monday, September 19, 2011

People May Be Getting Impatient

There remain 12 California congressmen who have yet to announce their intentions for 2012. People are assuming Davis, Farr, Pelosi, Speier, Nunes, McCarthy, and Waters are running and know where. It's still possible that Waters may retire but McCarthy isn't going to.

It's the other five that are annoying some people. Elton Gallegly's intentions are unknown and it's delaying any other Republican making plans. Candidates need time to raise money. If Gallegly isn't running he's handing the Democrats a head start.

My speculation is that he's waiting for Buck McKeon's decision. No one thinks McKeon will retire, but Gallegly may consider his seat. While most of Gallegly's district is in CA-26 his home and base of Simi Valley are in McKeon's safe CA-25.

Two of the other three are David Dreier and Jerry Lewis. Their decisions should be easier with Joe Baca's decision to run in the less competitive CA-35. The final congressman, Dennis Cardoza, has no easy decision. He either will challenge fellow Democrat Jim Costa or run in a district with little or none of his current territory.

Here are the updated charts with who is running for congress, in red, and who may, but hasn't announced. In the last two weeks the following has happened.

1. Wally Herger picked up an opponent in Jim Reed.
2. Alyson Huber decided not to run in CA-7.
3. Barbara Lee announced her re-election plans.
4. Joe Baca decided to run in CA-35.
5. Raul Ruiz announced he'll challenge Mary Bono Mack.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Joe Baca to run in CA-35

In a move that should surprise no one, congressman Joe Baca decided to run in CA-35. The district is a safe Democratic district and assures his re-election. Democrat state senator Gloria McLeod declared for the district but there's no way she beats Baca. She may shift to the 31st. While this move helps Baca, it hurts the Democrats. Baca was their best candidate in the 31st and McLeod or Assembly member Norma Torres could've beaten any Republican in the 35th.

While Democrats have a registration edge in the 31st, Republicans David Dreier or Jerry Lewis would likely be slight favorites here. Both have huge war chests, strong name recognition, and currently represent GOP leaning parts of the district. Neither has announced their intentions.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Winning California Congressional Districts

When looking at the congressional races, some people have been skeptical of the Republican chances. If Jerry Brown beat Meg Whitman by 10 points, 55%-45%, how could a Republican hope to win?

It’s pretty simple. Meg Whitman isn’t running against Jerry Brown for congress. In 2010, the high Democrat was Bill Lockyear, with 60.9% of the vote. The high Republican was Steve Cooley with 49.6%. These have pretty much been ceilings for both parties. Dianne Feinstein did better in 2006, with 62.9%. On the Republican side, Steve Poizner got 56.9% and Arnold Schwarzenegger got 58.9%. It’s possible the Democratic ceiling is slightly higher and the Republican ceiling is much higher, but I think these totals are safe extremes.

Cooley won 12 districts that treasurer candidate Mimi Walters also won. Lockyear won 26 districts that Kamila Harris also won. So we can pretty safely say that the Democrats will win 26 and Republicans 12 for the foreseeable future.

What about the other 15 that Cooley and Lockyear won? Those could conceivably be in play. Of course the Republicans won’t be running Steve Cooley against Kamila Harris in these 15 districts. But they might run a popular incumbent with a big war chest like Jerry Lewis in a district the Democrats appear to be favored.

Neither Meg Whitman nor Carly Fiorina won the 31st district, but Cooley got 54% of the vote. If Lewis runs here and Joe Baca doesn’t oppose him, I could easily see this district as Lean Republican.

Former Republican congressman Steve Kuykendall is running in the open 47th district, one that neither Whitman nor Fiorina did better than 46%. Cooley, however, did get 53.3%. Likely opponent, Democrat Alan Lowenthal, would be favored, but Kuykendall has a clear path to victory. This isn’t like the Massachusetts Senate race where Scott Brown had to beat the typical Republican by 7-10 points to win. Kuykendall needs to be 3% less popular than Cooley to do so.

The 33rd, which is at the bottom of the list, will be where Henry Waxman will be running. No one sees this district as a possible Republican pick-up, but it’s worth noting that a Democratic district is the only one on the list that’s perceived as fully safe.

How it’ll shake out depends on candidates and political environment, but the floor for the GOP, in the event of a Democratic landslide, is 12 seats. Meg Whitman won 15. Carly Fiorina won 21. Steve Cooley won 27.

The three districts that Whitman won that Mimi Walters didn’t will all have incumbent Republicans, Brian Bilbray, Mary Bono Mack and Jeff Denham. The environment doesn’t seem to be tilting one way or another. So the floor should be 15 seats. While many pundits are predicting a 4-5 seat Republican loss, I see a 4 seat Republican loss as the worst the GOP can do.

The districts that Fiorina won, but Whitman didn’t, are a bit trickier. We know that 3 Democratic incumbents and 1 Republican incumbent will be running in those 6 seats. Elton Gallegly may still run in one of the districts.

Without incumbents I’d put all six of these seats as toss-ups, but incumbents will push the lean. Thus, I have the 3rd,16th, and 24th as Lean Democratic and 7th as Lean Republican. I have the 21st and 26th as toss-ups, but Gallegly would push the 26th into a Lean Republican rating.

I’m standing by my prediction that Republicans will lose 1 seat, although I could see a range of Democrats +4 to Republicans +2 . The right Republican candidate in a few of the districts could push the GOP upper limit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Republican California Popularity

The current California meme is that the Republican Party has adopted an extreme racist agenda and that’s why they’re unpopular now. As we looked at earlier, Republicans generally get around 42-45% of the vote statewide. That’s not good, but you can’t claim an inability to get 33% of the state senate seats on a lack of popularity. Based on how popular Republicans are, the party shouldn’t get that few.

But has it moved to the “extreme right?”


Below are party registration statistics going back to 1972. The real story is actually how dramatically people are leaving both parties to become Decline to State, but that’s another post.
What we see here is that a 13 point registration gap is hardly unprecedented. It was much higher in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. In fact, since 1972 Democrats have lost 12% of the registration, while Republicans lost 6%. The high point of Republican registration was 1990, when the party had 39% of the registration, but still a 10% gap. In 2006, the registration share in both parties had dropped and the gap was at its lowest, 8%. So if the Republican Party moved to an extreme right wing agenda it happened very recently or California likes the extreme agenda.

Of course, in 2008 Democratic registration went up 2% and Republican registration went down 3%. That was pretty much the same in 2010, with small declines by both parties as people continue to move to decline to state.

In 2008, George W. Bush and the Republican Party were very unpopular, while the Democrats did a big registration drive for their exciting new candidate, Barack Obama. This jump had more to do with the GOP’s failure and the Democratic excitement than any analysis of an agenda. Some of those people remain conservative, but feel the GOP moved too far to the left on spending. The agenda wasn’t “extreme” enough for them.

You can’t use one year with extraordinary circumstances and say conclusively what it means. The best you can say that in 2010, a year of Republican resurgence nationwide, the Republican Party didn’t see a registration bump. So it’s possible that some people are turned off by the Republican agenda, but if they are the turn off is very recent. It’s not like the Republican pledge not to raise taxes is something new.

The Results
Below are the results for eight statewide races since 1990. When a senate race was in an off year it was assigned to the year two years ahead. The third party vote is eliminated so that Republican v. Democrat can be compared on the same basis.

The years 1990, 1998, 2002, and 2006 were fairly consistent, with Republicans getting between 44.3% and 46.0% of the vote. So GOP popularity at the polls remained fairly constant. Nationwide 1994 was a banner year for the GOP and was so here too.

Two thousand ten, however, marked the first real change in voting patterns. Democratic voting share jumped 3%. Of course one election isn’t enough data to prove anything substantially, but if it is a sign that Republicans are becoming unpopular in the state it’s a recent phenomenon, not one that’s been happening over time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lungren Commits

Dan Lungren decided against challenging Tom McClintock for CA-4 and instead will run in CA-7. This is good news for Republicans, as the party will get good candidates for both seats, and Tom McClintock. Dan Lungren will have a tougher road.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September House Ratings Comparison

Listed below are my current House race ratings along with those from Cook Political Report, Larry Sabato, Rothenberg Political Report, and Roll Call.

1. This list only includes states that have completed redistricting or states with 1 or 2 congressional districts that won’t vary much. There’s no way of knowing who will be in danger in states that haven’t finished redistricting.

2. Representatives in yellow have yet to commit to the districts listed and may run in different seats or retire.

3. The percentage of the vote Barack Obama got is listed for the old Republican district and the new one.

4. While there are three new California districts on the list that Barack Obama won there are three additional districts that he won but will be districts John McCain won. The recipients of this gift are Buck McKeon, John Campbell, and Ken Calvert.

5. Barack Obama didn’t win Justin Amash’s current district but will have narrowly won the new one. He is the only Republican congressman to have such a distinction.

6. Steve King, Renee Ellmers, Quico Canseco, Blake Farenthold will go from districts Obama won to district McCain won.

7. Once New Hampshire redistricting is done, both of those districts are likely going to be ones Barack Obama won.

8. Republicans hold three districts that have been eliminated.

9. There are five new districts that I believe the GOP will win easily.

10. Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato still include the old California districts, so assigning their ratings included some guesswork.

11. The Rothenberg and Roll Call districts with a light background are ones that both services have yet to rate.

Some additional notes for Democratic seats
1. The percentages are the share John McCain got.

2. John Barrow, Larry Kissell, and Brad Miller move from districts Barack Obama won to ones John McCain won.

3. IA-3 is listed here as Leonard Boswell’s district but could just as easily be listed on the GOP side as Tom Latham’s district.

4. Democrats hold two districts that have been eliminated.

5. There is one new district that the Democrats can safely be expected to win.

6. Republicans are favorites in 4-6 Democratic seats, while Democrats are favored in 5-7 Republicans seats. When including new and eliminated seats, Republicans are actually favored in more races.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Who's running for congress in California? Update

Below is the latest update on who's running for congress in California. I've made a few changes.

1. If a district has a majority minority population, the ethnic group making that up is listed next to the cities. Thus, (A/B/H) is a district where the majority of the population is Asian, Black, and Hispanic

2. Candidates who've announced where they're running are in red. Candidates who have yet to do so are in Black. These include some incumbents and rumored challengers. Even though it's common knowledge that Nancy Pelosi is running for re-election and no mystery which district, she's in Black until she confirms it. Anna Eshoo confirmed her plans this week and is in red.

3. I've eliminated a column to better show who is running against whom. Incumbents have a green background, while challengers have yellow one. If a seat is open, both parties have a blue background. While I list multiple challengers together, I've listed a challenger in the incumbent's party separately. Gregory Cheadle is listed separately so that it's clear that Wally Herger is the incumbent.

David Dreier and Dennis Cardoza aren't listed, as there has been no indication which district they'll run in. Dreier may consider a San Bernardino district that Jerry Lewis doesn't run in or may be deciding to do nothing and hope that in a few months these districts are put on hold by the Supreme Court. Cardoza is rumored to be considering retirement.

Dan Lungren, Jerry Lewis, and Joe Baca are listed for districts they may run in. They could have easily been moved to other districts.

Since my last update, the following candidates have announced.

CA-3: Kim Dolbow-Vann(R) will challenge incumbent John Garamendi(D)
CA-15: Pete Stark(D) announced his re-election plans.
CA-18: Anna Eshoo(D) announced her re-election plans.
CA-21: Michael Rubio(D) will challenge for this open seat.
CA-26: David Cruz Thayne(D) is the second Democrat into a district Elton Gallegly has yet to commit to.
CA-28: Adam Schiff(D) announced his re-election plans.
CA-31: Joe Baca(D) decided that he's undecided whether he'll run in this district.
CA-32: Grace Napolitano(D) switched districts for her re-election. Roger Hernandez(D) dropped out.
CA-35: Norma Torres(D) became the second Democrat to declare for this open seat. If Joe Baca decides to run here, she may change her mind.
CA-37: Karen Bass(D) announced her re-election plans.
CA-38: Linda Sancehz(D) announced her re-election plans.
CA-47: Steve Kuykendall(R) announced his intention to run for this open seat.