In 2012 Issa beat the Democrat in the primary by 30 points and won the general election by 16. In 2014 he beat the two Democrats by 24 points and won the general election by 20 points. (You may hear Issa won the primary by 34 points, but that only takes the votes by one Democrat and doesn’t use all Democratic votes.) So the theory goes that if Issa wins the primary this year by 6 points, his opponent will close the gap just as Democrats have done in the past.
Sensing that Issa is weak the DCCC commissioned a survey that shows a tie between the two candidates.
So is Issa in trouble? Let’s take a deeper look.
In the 2012 primary Democratic presidential candidates got 37% of the two party vote and 33% of the two party congressional vote. That’s not unusual, as incumbents like Issa generally do better than their presidential candidate. Jerry Tetalman, the Democrat, got 35,816 votes and the Democratic presidential candidates got 35,688.
Republican presidential candidates got 61,289 and Issa got 71,329. Issa got many of the votes from NPP/third party voters who didn’t vote in a Presidential primary.
This year things were very different. Democratic presidential candidates got 55% of the two party vote but Applegate lagged further than Tetalman and only got 47% of the two party congressional vote. In raw numbers Applegate got 69,218 congressional election votes, while Democratic presidential candidates got 80,669. Issa got 79,050, while Republican Presidential candidates got 66,528.
While Tetalman got 100% of the Democratic presidential vote, Applegate got only 86% of the Democratic vote this year. Issa got 116% of the Republican presidential vote in 2012, but got 119% this year. Based on the electorates they were presented with, Tetalman outperformed Applegate, even though it appears to be the other way around.
In 2012, Democrats got 37% of the two party Presidential primary vote and Barack Obama got 47% in the general election. Thus, Tetalman’s primary to general election improvement. That made the district R+5. For Applegate to win he’d likely need Clinton to win the district by 16 points. If Clinton is winning R+5 districts by 16 points then Democrats are winning over 300 congressional seats this year. We’d be talking about an epic blowout that’d make 2008 look like a Republican win. The experts are talking about Democrats winning 15 seats on the high end, not 115.
If Issa loses it’s because of the most massive wave any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Anyone get a feeling like that’s happening?
In fundraising Applegate raised $53,445 and spent $39,636 in the primary. He had $13,809 cash on hand and $25,068 in debt. He's done absolutely nothing to help himself. To compete in a congressional race a candidate needs to raise at least $500k, but probably more like $1.5 million. Applegate has shown no ability to raise anything. So he'll need Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and Nancy Pelosi to implore all their supporters to give him money.
Issa has $3,772,228 cash on hand. Issa is the wealthiest congressman, but it doesn't come from his pocket. He's a pretty good fundraiser and never spends much money on his campaigns. He started the cycle with $3,750,024 in the bank, pretty much what he has now. That's more than any candidate should need, but I'd imagine he'll start fundraising. And if he felt he needed a little more I'm sure he'd kick in a few million more.
So not only would Applegate need an electorate he'll never get but he'd need Issa to not try to win. I know that people have it in their heads that Democrats do better, sometimes much better, in the general election than the primary. Even if California has a more Democratic electorate than 2012 Republicans should do significantly better than they did in this year's primary. People think that a Republican winning by 6% is in trouble, but it may be the Democrats who win by less than 10% who are in trouble.