This is important to know when looking at the numbers. We’re still at 42%D/38%R. That’s better for Democrats than 2010 if Democratic VBM participation rate is the same as it was then. Due to a Democratic party effort, however, their VBM returns were up in the primary. This mostly, but not entirely, cannibalized their election day vote. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If someone votes earlier it save you money on a mailer and means you can call or knock on the door of a different voter. So I’d cautiously say these numbers are good for the GOP.
One caveat is that Democratic leaning Los Angeles county has one of the lowest VBM returns. They are reporting ballots every other day, just as they’ve done in the past. They did have a low primary turnout. So it’s possible there aren’t unreported ballots.
CA-3: VBM return dropped again. This time it was from D+5 to D+3, after starting at D+12 with the first ballots. Both 2012 and the primary were D+5 VBM. So if this trend continues, Republican Dan Logue might have a shot.
CA-7: VBM moved from even to D+1. Any movement of 1 point isn’t really significant due to rounding. In this case, the change is less than half a point. The VBM has been bouncing 1 point either way the whole time. It’s still a toss-up.
CA-9: VBM now at D+9, the same as 2012. That’s a good number for incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney.
CA-10: VBM remains at R+2, the same as 2012. That’s a good number for incumbent Republican Jeff Denham.
CA-16: VBM is steady at D+14. The Central Valley is difficult to judge because so many Democrats vote Republican down ballot, but I don’t see any reason that incumbent Democrat Jim Costa should worry.
CA-21: VBM is steady at D+15. As I discussed previously this could be cause for concern for incumbent Republican David Valadao. As I also said previously, however, he romped in 2012 when the actual final electorate was 47%D/36%R.
CA-24: VBM remains at R+3, a tick higher than 2012. That’s a slightly favorable electorate for Republican Chris Mitchum. Lois Capps should be out there getting out the vote and spending some of that campaign cash. Mitchum’s internal says this district is competitive and it certainly has the partisan make-up to be competitive. I wouldn’t put it in the GOP column, but it bears watching.
CA-26: The district bounced back to D+3. I’ve maintained that Republican Jeff Gorell will have a tough time winning if there are more Democratic VBM ballots than Republican, but now isn’t the time to dismiss him either.
CA-31: The district is still at D+2. That’s positive for Democrat Pete Aguilar but Republican Paul Chabot shouldn’t be dismissed.
CA-33: The district finally started moving toward the Democrats, ticking up to D+3 from D+2. So it’s not much of a move. Normally, D+3 isn’t sunny for Republicans, but it depends on the district. As mentioned above, it can be encouraging in CA-3, while discouraging in CA-26. It’s very encouraging here. The biggest reason is that this district was D+11 in 2012 and you’re dealing with an open seat that has challengers from parts of the district that are usually the other party’s stronghold.
I know a lot of people would dismiss making a play for a district like this for the GOP. After all, a district this Democratic is sure to flip back in 2016. I think it’s a good idea for Republicans to try in a couple of Democratic districts like this one. The GOP hasn’t taken any light to medium blue districts in the last few cycles. It’d be nice to know that they can.
CA-36: The district is still at R+2. In some places that’d make Republican challenger Brian Nestande look strong, but R+2 here is like D+2 in CA-31. Nestande is in this but a definite underdog.
CA-41: I haven’t mentioned this district before, but it’s one the GOP thought they could win in 2012. It was an epic fail. The VBM is actually D+4, 5 points lower than 2012. That’s good, but I don’t think Republican Steve Adams is a serious threat to incumbent Democrat Mark Takano. It still is one to watch.
CA-47: The district is still R+3 VBM. This is a very similar district to CA-33 and CA-41 in voting patterns, if not demographically. They are all D+10-11 on a Presidential level. The differences in the congressional race are that CA-41 and 47 have incumbents and challengers who haven’t raised much money. CA-33 has no incumbent and a Republican who has raised a decent amount of money. The VBMs in CA-41 and 47 are 5 points more Republican than 2012, while the VBM in CA-33 is 7 points more Republican.
It’s likely that none of these will be competitive districts and Republicans will wish that this increased Republican turn-out had happened in a more competitive district. This could be a sort of control group/experimental group thing. CA-33, 41, and 47 are control group districts where Democrats and Republicans aren’t trying hard. The environment in such a case is strongly favoring the GOP. In districts where both parties are trying, however, Democrats are holding the Republican turnout gains down.
CA-52: This is one district that Republicans look healthy in that is competitive. While it’s now R+9 instead of the previous R+10, that exceeds the R+6 in 2012. I believe Republican challenger Carl DeMaio should still be the favorite.
SD-12: District moves a tick more Democratic at D+7. Still fine for the GOP.
SD-14: District stays at D+19. Still worrisome for GOP incumbent Andy Vidak. We won’t know how worrisome until election day.
SD-32: I include this one not because I think it’ll be competitive, but because a Republican independent expenditure is going in. I’m wondering if Republicans are operating the theory I had above that you only know where you can compete and how much you can move the needle by trying it somewhere. The VBMs so far are D+8, more Republican than the D+12 in 2012 and D+12 in the primary. That’s not a reason to think this district will be competitive, however. Republicans aren’t going to win a D+8 in Los Angeles county and the district’s final tally was D+24 2012. So a lot of Democrats came out on election day then.
SD-34: At R+8 it's still tough odds for Democrat Jose Solorio.
AD-8: I haven’t mentioned this one because I don’t think it’ll be competitive. It looks like a district that could be. VBMs are D+4, down from D+5 in 2012.
AD-16: There are some similarities between this district and AD-8, but I don’t think Democrats have anything to worry about either. Returns remain at D+3.
AD-21: Returns tick up from D+5 to D+6, good territory for incumbent Democrat Adam Gray.
AD-32: Returns remain steady at D+24. This has the Valley dynamic of CA-21 and SD-14 as the ballots are the same ones reported there. Here, however, there’s a Democratic incumbent.
AD-36: VBMs go from R+11 to R+10. I still think incumbent Democrat Steve Fox remains a goner.
AD-40: VBMs go from R+7 to R+6, but the real movement is smaller than that.
AD-41: I’m including this one even though I think there’s no chance it’ll be competitive. Incumbent Chris Holden is running against a challenger who qualified by being a write-in. That said, VBM returns are D+1 so far and I’ve included any district that has VBMs that close. They were D+3 in 2012 when Holden won comfortably.
AD-44: This open Ventura county district is currently held by the GOP. For the first time, the ballots are even. There had been a Democratic advantage since the first ballots came in. While even isn’t terrible here for the GOP, I think it favors Democrat Jacqui Irwin. It was R+6 in 2012.
AD-57: Republican Rita Topalian beat Democratic incumbent Ian Calderon in the primary in a district that shouldn’t be competitive. Speculation centered around the Calderon name hurting the Democrat, as two members of his family are under indictment. Sometimes scandal can throw a race completely out of whack. People who normally would never vote Republican probably voted Republican just because of it. Returns are D+6. They were D+9 in the primary and D+10 in 2012. It would be stunning if Democrats take AD-44 from the GOP but are deprived of their 2/3 majority with a loss here.
AD-60: I continue to include this one, even though I don’t think it’ll be competitive. It moves from R+11 to R+12.
AD-65: The district stays at R+11, a margin that I feel may doom Democratic incumbent Sharon Quirk-Silva.
AD-66: Good news for Democratic incumbent Al Muratsuchi is that VBMs dropped from R+6 to R+4. They were R+1 in 2012, so he isn’t safe.
Once again, a big thank you to PDI for compiling these numbers.