Tuesday, January 29, 2013

California Assembly 2014

While the California state senate results weren’t surprising, the state legislature results were. I expected Republicans would win 28-30 assembly seats and they managed only 25. Republicans won only one district Jerry Brown won and even lost a district John McCain won. Barack Obama won that district narrowly. So the GOP can still say they didn’t lost any Romney districts.

While Republicans won’t drop below 11 senate seats, they could certainly drop below 25 assembly seats. On the other hand, the GOP appears unlikely to get 1/3 of the senate seats but could easily gain the 2 seats they’ll need to get to 1/3 in the assembly.

Here are the potentially competitive seats:

AD-76 - Rocky J. Chavez (R), Obama 49.9%, Brown 43.0%
Democrats didn’t field a candidate in 2012 in this North County San Diego district and that’s kind of a pre-requisite to winning. I don’t think they have a shot in 2014, but Obama barely lost here.

AD-77 - Brian Maienschein (R), 60.1%-39.9%, Obama 49.2%, Brown 41.3%
Dianne Feinstein won this district and Democrats did field a candidate here. That candidate lost by 20%, however, and it shouldn’t be in play in 2014.

AD-36 - Steve Fox (D), 50.1%-49.9%, Obama 50.2%, Brown 45.3%
Steve Fox was losing the election throughout the count and was picking up 54% of the late ballots. He needed and got 2/3 of the votes of the final batch of ballots and won by 145 votes. Unless 2014 is a complete disaster for the GOP, this district flips back to Republicans.

AD-60 - Eric Linder (R), 51.8%-48.2%, Obama 52.6%, Brown 47.6%
Democrats were surprisingly strong in Riverside county and they came close in this Corona based district. It could be competitive in 2014, but 2016 is more likely.

AD-8 - Ken Cooley (D), 54.3%-45.7%, Obama 53.1%, Brown 53.8%
This was the only district in the state where Obama didn’t beat Brown. The district overlaps the 7th congressional district in suburban Sacramento. Carly Fiorina won here, but Meg Whitman didn’t because of her stance on union pensions. The GOP should have a shot, but Cooley will be favored.

AD-65 - Sharon Quirk-Silva (D), 52.0%-48.0%, Obama 53.2%, Brown 45.5%
While not as surprising as AD-36, it’s always surprising when Democrats in places like Cypress and Fullerton. The 2010 results should be encouraging to the GOP. Republicans got clobbered in 2010, but Tony Strickland won the district 44.4%-39.7% and Mimi Walters narrowly lost it 43.0%-42.9%. Since 1986, no Republican has done worse than Walters for a statewide position. This should be a prime target for the GOP in 2014.

AD-44 - Jeff Gorell (R), 52.9%-47.1%, Obama 53.5%, Brown 47.3%
Tony Strickland and Todd Zink lost congressional and Senate seats here, but Gorrell’s district is less Democratic and was enough for the him to win. Gorrell could be in trouble in 2014, but he’ll be a better target for Democrats in 2016.

AD-40 - Mike Morrell (R), 50.4%-49.6%, Obama 54.3%, Brown 50.5%
Mike Morrell is the most endangered Republican in 2014. Obama did better here in 2012 than he did in 2008. Morrell will be term limited after the next term. So if he holds the seat in 2014, the Democrats should take it as an open seat in 2016.

AD-66 - Al Muratsuchi (D), 54.8%-45.2%, Obama 55.6%, Brown 49.3%
After how badly the Muratsuchi did in the primary, I didn’t think that he could beat Craig Huey in the general election. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Huey wasn’t going to win a district where Obama did this well. This is the closest district to me where the GOP should have a shot. I’d like to think they will in 2014.

AD-21 - Adam Gray (D), 58.2%-41.8%, Obama 57.0%, Brown 51.1%
While the numbers look bad for Republicans this is the Central Valley, and the GOP is strong here. Fiorina won the district handily. I don’t think this is a likely pick-up, but it should be on the radar.

AD-32 - Rudy Salas (D), 52.9%-47.1%, Obama 57.3%, Brown 54.4%
This district is also in the Central Valley and Fiorina won it by a similar amount. Pedro Rios’ strong performance should convince the GOP that it’s a target for 2014.

Forecast: I expect Republicans to do well, but that shouldn’t be that hard since they are so far down now. I expect AD-36 and 65 to definitely flip and the GOP to pick up another seat. Any 2014 gains could be wiped out in 2016, but why worry about that now?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

CA-35: Baca to Challenge Negrete-McLeod in 2014

Former Democratic congressman Joe Baca has decided on a rematch with fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod for the CA-35 congressional seat.

I'm not surprised he's running again. I'm surprised he's not running in CA-31. He lives there and the district is prime for a Democrat to win. You'd think DCCC chairman Steve Israel would push him that way. Of course, Baca formed an alliance with Republican congressman Gary Miller in 2012, getting his help with Republicans in CA-35 for Baca's help with Democrats in CA-31. I have no idea if that comes into play.

I'm curious about his strategy. CA-35 went 31% Romney and 33% Whitman. It's likely a Republican will run next time. It'll be interesting to see what strategy each uses for the primary. There are a lot of examples to follow. Will they target Republicans in the primary?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Which House seat will Ro Khanna seek?

Democrat Ro Khanna was raising up a storm last cycle, but held off reportedly because he didn't want to upset the apple cart and challenge an incumbent. Apparently he won't hold off this cycle, even if there are no open seats. He has to be encouraged by the Swalwell/McLeod wins to know that a same party challenge can work very well in a Democratic district in Top Two. Khanna needs the right combination to ensure advancement. He either no Republicans or 2+ Republicans and no other Democrats just in case the Republicans take a fair amount of votes. Evelyn Li got 27.6% of the vote this year. That leaves little margin for error.

Swalwell would be more vulnerable and less likely to ruffle feathers. Of course they both won by beating old vets. So you can use the young up and comer angle that Swalwell used.

Friday, January 18, 2013

15 Year-olds Voting?

We were waiting for the next way Democrats could get a leg up and they've found it. They're going to start registering 15 year olds to vote when they get a learner's permit. Having millions of people in the voter database who aren't eligible to vote can lead to all sorts of shenanigans. Don't believe me?

When canvassing neighborhoods last fall I found a 16 year old who was mistakenly registered to vote. She was quite embarrassed about it and her mother had no idea how it happened. She didn't plan to vote, but she certainly could've gone to the polls and cast a vote. Yes, it would've been illegal but the poll workers wouldn't have stopped her. That's one person that I met when they're not supposed to have any 16 year olds in their database. What happens when they do?

That's not even mentioning that it makes it that much easier for someone dishonest anywhere along the line to commit voter fraud. Of course there's also the issue that in three years the 15 year old could be living somewhere other than his or her current address. I'm fine on making it easy for a person to vote, but they should have to put in some effort the year of their first vote.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

White People

There have been a lot of articles discussing Republican problems with minority vote and how they've sunk the Republican party. There is, undoubtably, reason for concern and the GOP has work to do. The Republican party lost the House vote by 1% and Romney lost by less than 4%. Those are hardly one-sided results. For a very good season.

White people.

Nobody talks about it, but Whites dramatically abandoned the Democratic party in 2012. Since 2008 and 2012 were both years where Democrats nominated Barack Obama, we can dismiss any change as independent of racism. People didn't suddenly wake up in 2012 and realize Barack Obama was Black. Some people have dismissed the White vote, speculating that there's no way the Democrats can get any less of the White vote. That might be a valid theory if the percentage of the White vote were constant nationwide. It isn't. It's very high in the south.

Unfortunately there were a limited number of exit polls in the south. So we don't have numbers for Georgia, Louisiana, and several other southern states. John McCain got an enormous percentage of the White vote in the Deep South in 2008, so much that there was simply no room for Mitt Romney to grow. You can't get everyone. The southern states outside the Deep South, North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia, showed some movement, all ending up at 62.2% or above.

Those are Southern Whites. Urban Whites aren't going to be so quick to turn to the Republican party, are they? In heavily Democratic areas the increase wasn't dramatic but parts of the Northeast showed a sharp turn.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey were much closer in 2012 because Obama lost suburban and rural Whites more than he did in 2008. While Pennsylvania Whites aren't likely to vote Republican like Southern Whites there is room for growth.

The Midwest does contain more rural Whites than the Northeast but the change here overall is significant in every state but Iowa. McCain lost Whites in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Romney won them this time. Some states in the Northeast could easily grow to the percentage Ohio and Indiana have.

The West showed some dramatic changes. Arizona was supposedly trending Blue, but White voters turned sharply away from Obama. California, which supposedly has very progressive White voters, moved 7.1% toward Romney. California isn't exactly ready to flip to the GOP but there's no reason to think that these states have hit their ceilings with White voters. If Colorado can move 6%, why can't it move 5% more to hit 60% like in other states. What if Iowa and Wisconsin move to around 55% of the White vote going Republican?

Democrats don't seem to be worried about their share of the White vote. They should be.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

CA-52 in 2014

CA-52 contains a lot of precincts where neither candidate got 60%. You don't usually see that. Defeated Republican congressman Brian Bilbray did top 60% in most of Poway, Coronado, Pomerado, and parts of Rancho Bernardo. You'd expect Escondido in the district, but they've separated it from neighboring areas. For years San Diego has had a North County-South County voter divide and this district has a little more of South County than Republicans would like. A Republican needs to do better in the North County part of the district, while holding their own in South County.

Brian Bilbray hadn't lived in the district until 2011. He grew up in Imperial Beach and represented the 49th there. Then he moved to Carlsbad to run for the 50th. You'd hope that someone like Poway mayor Don Higginson would have a base in north county to enable him to ring up good numbers there.

Friday, January 11, 2013

California State Senate 2014

There's no doubt 2012 was a disaster, as the GOP won only 5 of 20 seats, including one, SD-5, that appeared fairly safe. Bill Berryhill led on election day and that slowly slipped away from him.

The result actually shouldn't have been that surprising. Two districts which were considered swing, SD-27 and 31, went 59.5% and 57.5% Obama in 2008. SD-27, which is Ventura county based, went 55.8% Obama in 2012, while SD-31, Riverside county based, went the other way to 58.8%. The Republican candidates in the two beat Mitt Romney by 2.2% and 3.5% respectively. They were too Democratic this year. If they were up in 2010, they would've been competitive. Of course both will only be up in Presidential years and that could mean neither will be an opportunity in 2016. Since it moved more Obama in 2012, I'm fairly certain SD-31 won't be.

Romney got 44.6% in SD-5, similar to the 44.2% he got in SD-27. Bill Berryhill got 49.5%, while Todd Zink tallied 46.4%. Berryhill also ran in the wrong year. I'm not sure how big an opportunity it'll be in 2016.

Fortunately, 2014 will be a mid-term with Jerry Brown, not Barack Obama or Dianne Feinstein, on the top of the ticket.

With Jim Nielsen winning the special on Tuesday, Republicans will have incumbents in SD-4, 8, 16, 36, and 38, all very Republican districts. SD-28 is an open seat, but also safe Republican. Here are the other districts:

SD-12 - Obama got 55.7% in this Merced centered district. That's similar to SD-5 and SD-27 two districts that Republicans lost in 2012. As I mentioned above, however, Republicans came close in both races. While those were open seat affairs, this one has a Republican incumbent, Anthony Cannella. CD-16 is also Merced based. The GOP ran a no name against incumbent Jim Costa. Costa outspent the no name 2 to 1 and he still fell 2.4% short of Barack Obama.

I think the district favors the Democrats, but Republicans can win here.

SD-14 - This is also a Central Valley district, a Hispanic majority one similar to David Valadao's CD-21. Obama also dropped 2% here and got 54.6%. As with that district you had the strange occurrence that Meg Whitman got creamed here while Carly Fiorina won by a few points. Democratic incumbent Michael Rubio might run here, although he may live just outside the district. Of course, if he challenges Valadao this district is definitely open.

I think this district also favors Democrats, especially if Rubio runs, but it's one the GOP can win.

SD-34 - Fortunately this Orange County district will definitely be open. It has heavily Democratic Santa Ana, all of Little Saigon, which was divided for congress, and Republican beach cities. The bad news is that Barack Obama, inexplicably, improved here. The reason I can't explain it is because Obama dropped dramatically in the neighboring OC districts 36 and 37.

He got 54.6%, exactly what he got in SD-14. Unlike that district, however, Meg Whitman won here and actually won by a little more than Carly Fiorina. Depending on the candidates this one could favor the GOP.

Unlike 2012, 2014 won't be a disaster. Democrats didn't come close to winning any district Barack Obama lost in 2012 and he managed only 46.4% in the best of the 6 Republican districts. At worst, the GOP treads water. Unfortunately, that'd mean another cycle of 29D-11R. For Republicans to end the Democratic 2/3 super majority, however, they'll have to win all three competitive districts. While I think that unlikely, it's far more likely in 2014 than it would be in 2016.

Republicans will need to win at least 1 to have any shot at doing so in 2016. In 2016, they'll only have a shot at taking two Democratic districts, SD-5 and 27. They barely lost SD-5 and should be able to compete there, especially with Barack Obama off the ticket. The only reason they'll have a shot in SD-27 in 2016 is because Democrat Fran Pavley will be termed out. Of course that means that if the GOP is fortunate enough to capture CD-26 in 2014, Pavley will be the Democratic candidate in 2016.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How many seats did Democrats lose in redistricting?

I wanted to see how the 2012 congressional elections would’ve gone if the states weren’t drawn by partisan legislatures. I drew the states in DRA using the following criteria: 1) No consideration for Obama-McCain 2) Compact, keeping counties mostly intact and respecting COI 3) Keeping majority-minority districts.

I restricted my drawing to states drawn by partisan legislatures. While some other states may have had maps that favored one party or another they were, theoretically, drawn in a non-partisan or bi-partisan fashion.

In order to determine who would’ve won I gave the party a pick-up if the difference between old and new Obama-McCain would’ve been enough to flip the district when added to the actual result. If a district went from McCain by 5 to Obama by 5 and was decided by less than 10 points, it was a flip.

There were some districts where the congressional result was one-sided due to one party not really trying. If the new district was in swing territory I gave that party a 0.5 district pick-up. If a district moved so far that it was D+5 or R+5 I gave it to the other party regardless of congressional result. If there was no real change in the district, I kept it with the party that won it.

Maryland – It’s a pity that amendment didn’t pass. My map has Republican leaning districts north of Baltimore and in Western Maryland and a swing district between Baltimore and Washington. They weren’t Republican enough for me to give the GOP full wins.
Result: Republicans +1.5

Ohio – My map created swing districts in Cincinnati, northern Ohio, southeast Ohio, the Cleveland suburbs, and a Democratic district in Canton-Akron. Probably a little generous to Democrats.
Result: Democrats +3.0

Illinois – Roskum and Lipinski’s districts turn into swing districts, but they cancel each other out. My draw for Walsh, Dold, and Schilling would’ve resulted in Republican wins.
Result: Republicans +3.0

Pennsylvania – It didn’t change nearly as much as I would’ve thought. Kelly’s Erie district becomes swingy, as does Charlie Dent’s Lehigh Valley. Mike Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach see no real change in their districts since Allyson Schwartz takes up Northeast Philadelphia and lower Montgomery. Pat Meehan’s district was drawn in all of Delaware and part of Chester counties and becomes swing.
Result: Democrats +1.5

Texas – This isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be. Democrats would gain an Austin district and a Hispanic district in Dallas county. Houston is a little funky. Culbertson’s district becomes swingy, but so does Gene Green’s Hispanic majority district.
Result: Democrats +2.0

Georgia – Sanford Bishop and Rob Woodall end up in swing districts.
Result: No change

Massachusetts – While Keating’s district becomes a bit swingy, it probably wasn’t swingy enough to be competitive.
Result: No change

Indiana – there were a few changes, but they were mostly in safe Republican districts. IN-2 and IN-8 showed no real change.
Result: No change

North Carolina – NC-8 and NC-9 would’ve been Obama won districts and gone Democratic. NC-11 becomes swingy.
Result: Democrats +2.5

Wisconsin – Because the state has rural Republican/Democratic mixes, there was real change in WI-1, 7, or 8. Tom Petri’s district did move to swing territory.
Result: Democrats +0.5

Michigan – MI-7 and MI-8 become Democratic enough that they’d have flipped. MI-4 and MI-10 become swingy, but do does MI-12.
Result: Democrats +2.5

Florida – This is another one that I expected to go more Democratic. I got rid of the snake-like FL-5 and ended up with a swing district in Jacksonville and Bill Young’s St. Petersburg district becomes swing. It’s a little tricky in Dade County. FL-26 would become more Republican and FL-27 more Democratic. I counted them as cancelling each other out. The only real flip is that Democratic gain a second Orlando area seat.
Result: Democrats +1.0

Overall, the non-partisan redistricting would’ve resulted in Democrats picking up 8.5 more seats, for a total of 209.5. This is about 1-2 below what I expected, but it still would’ve been a nice gain. Contrary to what the Democratic meme is on the web Democrats wouldn’t have won 218 seats with non-partisan redistricting everywhere.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

California Congress 2014

CA-1 – La Malfa 57.4%-42.6%, Romney 56.6%-40.3%
There isn’t much of a chance this district becomes competitive any time soon, but a 15 point win in an R+10 district is a disappointment.

CA-3 – Garamendi 54.2%-45.8%, Obama 54.1%-43.0%
Garamendi wasn’t terribly impressive going up against a lesser opponent. This district could conceivably be competitive in a mid-term and Carly Fiorina did win here in 2010. Yet I wouldn’t put it on the Republican priority list. Assemblyman Daniel Logue would be the best recruit.

CA-7 Bera 51.7%-48.3%, Obama 50.8%-46.8%
Bera had a weak primary and came way back to win. This is an even PVI district, so Bera’s win against an incumbent is impressive. It may have something to do with 7 outside Democratic groups spending in the district. This should be a high priority district for Republicans in 2014, although I haven’t found a deep bench to challenge. Sacramento County Supervisors Susan Peters and Roberta MacGlashan may be the best candidates, although candidates from outside this district may consider running. Another possibility is former congressman Doug Ose, although he was last seen losing an ugly primary to Tom McClintock.

CA-9 McNerney 55.5%-44.5%, Obama 57.8%-40.1%
While McNerney underachieved the President by quite a bit, this district was always fool’s gold to the GOP. Carly Fiorina lost it and Steve Cooley squeaked out a victory. Republicans have a deep bench here, with possible candidates including US Marshal Tony Amador, Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, and several Stockton city councilmen, but it’s not a real good shot for 2014.

CA-10 Denham 52.7%-47.3%, Obama 50.6%-47.3%
Obama got a similar percentage to the nearby CA-7 and Democrats spent heavily here. In this instance the one-sided primary result did hold and Jose Hernandez wasn’t Ami Bera. Jeff Denham is a strong incumbent but he is vulnerable. Hernandez wants another shot but even he thinks he’s better off waiting for 2016 for that. Democrats don’t have a deep bench, so Denham should be in good shape for 2014.

CA-16 Costa 57.4%-42.6%, Obama 58.6%-39.4%
The Central Valley can be wacky for Democrats. They have a 15% registration advantage here and Costa won by slightly less than that against an opponent who spent little money in a Democratic year. I don’t think the GOP could win here, however, even with an a-list recruit like Assemblywoman Linda Halderman or Assemblyman Jim Patterson. It’s just too Democratic.

CA-21 Valadao 57.8%-42.2%, Obama 54.6%-43.5%
Democrats look at this being a D+4 district with a 15% registration advantage and the Democrat being a non-entity and see a possible win in 2014. That shows a lack of understanding about the Central Valley. Democratic strength is mostly a mirage and this district can’t be thought of the way other D+4 districts are thought of.

1. This was the only district in California that didn’t become more Democratic with on-line registration.
2. The district was 434th out of 435 in ballots cast in 2012.
3. This was the only congressional, assembly, or state district where the Republican won by a greater margin in the general election than his party won in the primary. That was hardly a fluke. The same thing happened in 2010.
4. Jim Costa barely won that district in 2010 even though Barack Obama won it 59%-39% in 2008.
5. Valadao’s win was by a greater margin than wins by Doug La Malfa or Buck McKeon and was by a similar margin to Darrell Issa and Ed Royce.

This Central Valley district has a White population that is largely rural and votes very Republican. There are the fewer swing voters here than you see elsewhere in California. The Democratic rolls have low turn-out transient Democratic Hispanic farmworkers, some of whom probably don’t live in the district in November, let alone vote. There are certainly Democratic votes here and Republicans will need to defend, but they should be able to do that.

CA-24 Capps 55.1%-44.9%, Obama 54.1%-43.1%
The Obama numbers are similar to CA-3, but Capps did better against a better opponent. Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and former senator Sam Blakeslee might be possibilities and it’s possible it could be vulnerable in a mid-term since Fiorina did win here in a mid-term. I wouldn’t put this one on a priority list.

CA-25 McKeon 54.8%-45.2%, Romney 49.7%-47.8%
McKeon’s win is underwhelming and should be cause for concern. The district, however, was R+3 in 2008 and remained R+3 in 2012. Because Obama did worse in 2012 that meant it went from an Obama win to a Romney win. I’ve had personal experience with McKeon during campaign season and he spends his time and money campaigning for other candidates. I don’t think McKeon will be vulnerable in 2014 but it’s worth watching for 2016.

Similar to CA-10 and CA-21 the Democrats don’t have much of a bench here, but we should keep in mind that they didn’t have a bench in CA-7, 26, 36, or 41. They won all of those seats with non-politicians or, in the case of CA-26, importing a candidate from outside.

CA-26 Brownley 52.7%-47.3%, Obama 54.0%-43.7%
This district is only slightly less Obama than CA-3 and CA-24 but both Fiorina and Cooley did better. Brownley didn’t do as well as Garamendi or Capps. That’s either because this was an open seat or because she isn’t as strong. This is a second tier GOP priority and I think Tony Strickland should it another shot. He’s a great fundraiser and popular in the district.

CA-31 Gary Miller no Democrat, Obama 57.2%-40.6%
Can you name another district held by a Republicans where Obama got 57% of the vote? [toe tap toe tap] There aren’t any. Democrats aren’t going to blow the primary the way they did in 2012. I don’t see a path to victory for Miller in 2014.

CA-36 Raul Ruiz 52.9%-47.1%, Obama 50.7%-47.5%
No result surprised me nearly as much as this one did. Democrats had never won a congressional seat that was primarily in Riverside county. Yet, with the mass influx of Democrats into the county, winning one was inevitable. It was just a question of when and where.

I wouldn’t have thought that where would be CA-36. Mary Bono Mack had withstood previous challenges and her 2008 percentage exceeded McCain’s by more than many of her California colleagues. When Bono Mack won her primary by 16.2%, her victory seemed assured. The district had a Republican registration advantage until the October report, although it doesn’t now.

Ruiz’s victory was even more impressive when you consider that he exceeded Obama’s percentage by more than any other Democrat in a competitive senate, assembly, or congressional district. This is clearly a swing seat, but Ruiz shouldn’t be dismissed as a fluke. It’ll be a top priority.

The bench is really deep here, with a bunch of candidates waiting for Bono Mack to retire. Senator Bill Emmerson is the most prominent, but he’ll be 69 in 2014. Assemblyman Brian Nestande and Hemet mayor Robert Youssef are younger up and comers. Riverside Supervisor John J. Benoit and Indio mayor Glenn Miller are also possibilities.

CA-39 Ed Royce 57.8%-42.2%, Romney 50.8%-47.1%
Jay Chen and his brother’s SuperPac threw a ton of money at Ed Royce and they barely made a dent. The district went from R+5 to R+4 and Chen was second to John Hernandez in Democratic underperformers compared to Barack Obama. So it’s doubtful it’ll flip any time soon. I’m perfectly happy if Democrats think Royce is vulnerable and want to put more money in here.

CA-41 Mark Takano 59.0%-41.0%, Obama 61.5%-36.3%
Do you want to know how a political outsider wins in an area that doesn’t elect Democrats? Register so many Democrats that candidates don’t matter. Republicans never had a shot here.

CA-45 John Campbell 58.5%-41.5%, Romney 54.8%-43.0%
The district went from R+6 to R+8, but Democrats apparently are salivating at taking another shot at Campbell. This was Meg Whitman’s second best district in the state. Mimi Walters won it by 17 points and she was the worst performing Republican candidate in a mid-term since 1986. Again, be my guest.

CA-47 Alan Lowenthal 56.6%-43.4%, Obama 60.0%-37.5%
Lowenthal underperformed Obama by 5 points two party, although I think Gary DeLong being a strong candidate had a lot to do with that. A district with Long Beach looked like an attractive steal for Republicans but it’s too Democratic to win. Of course Orange County congressional seats don’t come open often and Supervisor Janet Nguyen may give it a try.

CA-49 Darrell Issa 58.2%-41.8%, Romney 52.3%-45.7%
Obama won the district in 2008, but it was something of a fluke, because both Whitman and Fiorina won the district in a landslide two years later. This year, the district went from R+3 to R+5 and it’ll be more Republican in a mid-term. Democrats can still dream of taking out Darrell Issa.

CA-52 Scott Peters 51.2%-48.8%, Obama 52.1%-45.7%
This is a bit of a perplexing district. Republicans have a registration advantage here, but Obama did better than he did in districts where Democrats have a registration advantage. That’s not a complete shock, however, since the district was D+3 in 2008, but only D+1 in 2012.

I can make a long list of possible candidates Supervisors Pam Slater-Price and Ron Roberts, Poway Mayor Don Higginson, and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein are all possibilities, but the best candidate would be 2012 mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. Obama won the city of San Diego 61%-36%, but DeMaio lost narrowly 52%-47%. He’d be a formidable candidate in a mid-term.

Republicans didn’t do well in 2012 but this election had a great top of the ticket for Democrats. Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein are certainly most popular politicians in the state in the last 25 years. Not having them on the ticket and a different mid-term electorate should help the GOP.

Republicans should lose CA-31 in 2014 regardless of how the environment looks. They do, however, have multiple opportunities to pick up seats, but none is anything certain. There are reasons to think the Presidential election in 2016 could be better for Republicans and reasons to think it could be worse. That election is still four years away and we should learn a bit from 2014.

Friday, January 4, 2013

CA SD-4 Election on Tuesday, January 8

The run-off for SD-4, Doug LaMalfa's district, is this Tuesday for those of you who are in election withdrawal.The election will be between Republican Jim Nielsen and Democrat Mickey Harrington. The primary, which occurred on election day, produced a Republican landslide 61.3%-27.7%.

While we certainly got one-sided Republican primaries last June, the results of the November election were far closer. Republicans won a paltry 5 senate seats in November. Barack Obama got between 41.1% and 49.8%, two party, in each. The Democrat running in the general election got between 2.0% and 6.5% less than Obama.

In this district, Barack Obama got 45.8% of the vote, roughly mid-way between what he got in SD-23 and 37. While the Democrat in those elections got 43.0% and 43.7%, the Democrat here got 27.7%. Even if we credit all the NPP votes to Democrats we still end up with 38.7%, well below Democratic performance in similar districts.

Nielsen is certain to win. What's important for 2014 will be by how much. If Harrington gets below 40% it'll be easy to dismiss his performance as stemming from a low-turnout special election. If he gets in 41% or higher it might be a great sign for Democrats. Getting within 5% of Barack Obama now could mean a very strong 2014 in the Golden State.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

California Democrats v. Barack Obama


Democrats were remarkably consistent compared to President Obama in the 2012 election. In 61 congressional, senate, and assembly districts where the President got 39 and 66% they averaged doing worse than Obama by about 3.4%. They were 3.4% below in assembly races, 3.5% below in senate races, and 3.3% below in congressional races. They were between 0.1% ahead and 7.0% behind the President in 53 of the 61 races.

Conventional wisdom is that how much worse Democrats did than President Obama would be directly tied into the competitiveness of the district. Thus districts where the Democrats fielded a non-competitive candidate and the Republican spent a lot of money would be far below Obama. Districts that were the reverse would meet or exceed Obama.

Yet when we look at the list below we see that there were two districts where the Democrats beat Obama, CD-1 and AD-3, where the candidate was non-competitive. On the other hand, Democrats in districts where Republicans were less competitive were among the worst performers compared to Obama.

In congressional districts, John Hernandez was easily the biggest underachiever, but Alan Lowenthal was also disappointing. Gary DeLong might’ve won a district that wasn’t so Democratic. He likely was a great candidate for this district, but it’s one a Republican can’t win.

So Democratic performance can be gauged based on how the President did. Democrats never did better than 1.3% ahead of the President. So Republicans can feel secure in any district Obama got less than 48.7% two party, even in a Presidential year. In a mid-term you can probably up that and say that if President Obama didn’t win the district the Democrats won’t win it in 2014. There may be an election when Democrats can target Buck McKeon but this cycle is unlikely to be it.

On the other hand, Republicans need to give up hope of winning any district where Obama got more 57% of the vote and likely should set their sights on district where he got 54-55% at most. Maybe go a little higher in a mid-term.

While Democrats were fairly well below Barack Obama, I wouldn't want to give the impression it was a bad Democratic year. Obama and Feinstein are off the charts as candidates, exceeding statewide vote totals other Democrats can't approach.

Falling 3.5% below Obama is actually good. That'd be 58.4% two party statewide. Typically Democrats get 55-57% in statewide mid-term elections. The only statewide elections in Presidential years are the Presidential race and, sometimes, a senate race. So there isn't a lot of data for baseline in a Presidential year.

Since California districts were so gerrymandered in the past, the districts were non-competitive and won't tell us a lot about competitive districts. So comparing those totals to candidates to Obama won't tell us much.

I don't think 58.4% is a new normal for Democrats in a mid-term, at least in one where there's a Democrat in the White House. They'll probably get around 56-57% in 2014. That's still on the high end. Of course that's speculation. Democrats could easily look at it optimistically and assume that an upward trajectory will continue in 2014.

While 2016 might not as good without Obama on the ballot, you have to think things look pretty rosy for Democrats.

Note: I don’t have final vote totals for some counties in 6 assembly and senate districts. The Obama percentages, which appear in red, are estimated based on overall county performance.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

California Primary vs. General Election 2012

In California Democrats usually do much better in the general election that they do in the primary. I’m not entirely sure of the reason for this. Their voters are ones that are less likely to show up in primaries, but other states don’t have this pronounced a difference. As a result Democrats tend to do far better in the general election than they do in the primaries. In the past this wasn’t a really big deal, but with top two it cost them a congressional seat and maybe an assembly seat. Still, it’s hard to look at the general elections results and find Democrats have a lot to regret.

This comparison was made by totaling the Republican, Democratic, and third party votes in the primary and general election for all candidates of that party. In 2008 and 2010 Democrats improved by an average of 11% between the primary and the general in congressional seats where they got between 38 and 60%. They averaged a 16% loss in the primary and a 5% loss in the general.

This year I looked at 59 seats in the assembly, senate, and congress that were competitive/semi-competitive. On average Democrats improved by 15.3%, an increase over the past several cycles. This likely happened because Democratic turn-out and thus turn-out overall was lower in the primary, while Republican turn-out was respectable. Democratic turn-out was strong in the general, while Republican turn-out was down slightly.

I listed the seats based on the primary spread and included the general election spread and the difference between the primary and the general. A positive result is a Democratic win and a negative one is a Republican one. One thing that immediately jumps out is that the better the Republicans did in the primary the more the district tended to move toward the Democrats in the general election. The first group of 20 seats moved 10.3%, the second 15.7%, and the third 20.2%.

Thus Democrats were more likely to gain ground in seats where they were outspent than those they outspent Republicans. They gained the most in those districts where they had no shot and didn’t even bother trying to win.

Some of this is likely due to both parties having a floor in the general election, but why did Democrats fall so far below that floor in some primary elections and not in others? If Democrats were able to increase turn-out from the primary to the general election is SD-21 enough to close the gap by 23%, why didn’t they also increase turn-out in nearby SD-19, 25, and 27?

After losing several elections that looked one sided in the primary Republicans can’t get complacent for general elections in 2014. Republicans lost in the general election in every contest where they lost the primary and even those they won by as many as 11.7%. They were 4-5 in primaries they won by 14-19% and were 25-1 in primaries they won by 22% or more. So while Republicans lost a seat where they won the primary by 34%, there is a safe territory.