D-Trip “Targets” 8 House Seats – I’ll Believe It When I See It

(Sorry, guys, I wrote this one, as well as any “Open Thread” comment.  I forget to log out sometimes…

– promoted by David Dayen

State Democrats are buzzing about this weekend’s Carla Marinucci article entitled “California Dems target 8 GOP districts”, which claims that Republican voter registration is dropping fast, providing a major opportunity to pick up Congressional seats in 2010.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted 35 districts across the country represented by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives – including eight in California – that were won by Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, said Jennifer Crider, the committee spokeswoman.

The Democrats plan increased appeals to voters in those areas and will make aggressive efforts to recruit Democratic candidates to run against the Republican incumbents, she said […]

The vulnerable California districts with Republican representatives that were won by Obama are those of Reps. Dan Lungren of Gold River (Sacramento County), Mary Bono-Mack of Palm Springs, David Dreier of San Dimas (Los Angeles County), Elton Gallegly of Thousand Oaks (Ventura County), Brian Bilbray of Solana Beach (San Diego County), John Campbell of Newport Beach (Orange County), Ken Calvert of Riverside and Howard “Buck” McKeon of Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), the committee says.

It would be nice if I thought any of this would work.  First of all, the registration changes didn’t just spring up in December 2008.  These trends have been occurring for some time, and were all present during the last election.  Despite this, we had a candidate in CA-25 (McKeon) who spent less than $10,000 or her entire campaign.  The candidate in CA-24 (Gallegly) won her primary because of her ballot designation and without spending any significant money.  (By the way, CA-25 is now the seat held by the GOP with the closest registration gap between Republicans and Democrats in the whole state.  Did you know that?)   In the races where we managed to compete, our candidates significantly underperformed the top of the ticket, and in most cases underperformed Barbara Boxer’s performance in 2004, when a less dominant John Kerry was at the top of the ticket.

I don’t think there are that many other people who have followed California congressional races closer than I have, and I have to say that we simply suck at elections in these kinds of races out here in California.  The state party is dysfunctional at best and downright criminal at worst.  Put it this way: we had the same chance to win all these seats in 2008.  Nate Silver, making a separate point, provides a list of the 30 districts where Obama won between 50 and 52 percent of the vote.  As you’ll see, we did extremely well in those seats, except for in California.

Barack Obama won 51 percent of the vote in NY-20 on November 4th. How did congressional candidates perform in other districts where he received between, say, 50 and 52 percent of the vote? Again, we see essentially an even split; Republicans won 16 of 30 such districts and Democrats won 14:

Won by Republicans (16): CA-24, CA-25, CA-26, CA-44, CA-45, CA-50, FL-10, FL-18, MI-4, MN-3, NE-2, NJ-7, NY-23, VA-4, WI-1, WI-6

Won by Democrats (14): FL-22, KS-3, MI-1, MI-7, MN-1, NC-2, NJ-3, NY-1, NY-19, NY-20*, NY-24, TX-23, VA-2, WA-3

Winning percentage in these seats in states other than CA: 58.3%

Winning percentage in CA: 0.0%

By the way, the other two districts not mentioned above that are now being “targeted”?  CA-03 (Lungren) was 49-49 Obama, and CA-48 (Campbell) was also 49-49 Obama.  Heck, even CA-46 was only 50-48 McCain.  Obama got 46% in CA-19 (Radanovich), where there was no Democratic candidate, and 47% in CA-40 (Royce).

Some would argue that, properly resourced, these seats would suddenly become very winnable.  I give you CA-50, where Nick Leibham consistently beat Brian Bilbray in fundraising and maxed out at the 45% ceiling on Democrats in that district.

CA-44 is somewhat winnable because Bill Hedrick came close in ’08 and is running again.  We lost our best candidate in CA-03, Bill Durston, and everywhere else, I’m just extremely dubious, because the state party has systematically psyched itself out of winning these seats (thanks to the Faustian bargain of incumbency-protected gerrymandering designed by… imminent state party chair John Burton), and the commitment at the national level has been known to wane.  We’ve left dozens of winnable elections on the table the past two cycles, dramatically underperforming the nation.  A little DCCC money won’t change that.

15 thoughts on “D-Trip “Targets” 8 House Seats – I’ll Believe It When I See It”

  1. If there was ever a time for DCCC to cowboy up in California, this is it.  The GOP has very few assets and they are spending them on attacking each other.  It is a party that will come with knives to a gun fight.

  2. If they can increase the Dem turnout in these elections, that will make the difference. Registration numbers don’t matter; it’s getting your voters to the polls. That’s what the Obama campaign did well that most Dem candidates can’t do. When we’ve made the effort, I’ve sen 10% differences in precincts where a proper GOTV is done. That’s the biggest thing Dems need to work on, not money, but people power to do GOTV.

  3.   2010 will be an off-year cycle with higher Rep and lower Dem turnout.  Plus, the enthusiastics for Obama will not all turn out.  Given that, resources should be devoted to State Assembly and Senate races.  In 2012, a properly conducted congressional redistricting (none of this bipartisanship with the Reps stuff) should give us 4-5 more seats, particularly if Obama is cruising to a second term.  In that case, we’ll hold them for the rest of the decade (2014 is the witching election, as 2cd term fatigue comes into play).

     We need to reframe elections in California.  First and foremost the Democrats need to run on education, which means properly funding in.  Contemporaneously, Democrats need to emphasize that the resources for this will come from top 1%, and that middle class Californians can expect “no new taxes”.

    Split-roll property taxes should raised $4-5 billion a year and An increase in the state income tax of 1% on the top 1% should raise another $5 billion or so.  This additional $10 billion should “balance the books” on everything except transportation–this should be funded by an increase in the gas “fee”.  The state should also (after the defeat of Prop 1A) adopt a revenue-neutral “bank” for funds, so that boom-or-bust does not damage the state.  The idea of borrowing in bad years and repaying in good years is a good idea–unfortunately, Republican obstinacy forced borrowing in good years.  Ideally, the federal government would be the “bank”.

     As for “class warfare”, here’s a little factoid from Rutten’s recent column in the LA Times:

    If you really want to cringe, consider those statistics against the historical

    picture that’s been developed by MIT’s Frank Levy, called “a leading scholar

    of income trends” by the Wall Street Journal. His work shows that although

    American families’ incomes more than doubled in the years between the end of

    World War II and 1980, they haven’t — when measured in constant dollars —

    risen since. In fact, during the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency,

    they actually fell. Meanwhile, from 1986 to 2005, the median annual income of

    the nation’s wealthiest 1% of households actually increased by $250,000.

    What we need is to use Obama’s network to spread this message throughout California (and the nation).  While most Americans are delusional in thinking that they are going to be rich (Joe the “plumber” anyone?), at some point reality intrudes and they see they aren’t going to be in the top 1%.  Furthermore, those with children (who disproportionality vote) will realize that the Republican view for the future is one of penury for their children.  And, a huge benefit of Obama’s victory and governance is that it helps undercut the race card the Reps have been playing for the last 40 years–this has been a huge factor in their success (and here in California, where 75% of the voters are white but a majority are non-white, it has also been significant).

     We are on the cusp of restoring American economic opportunity to where it was in the 50’s and 60’s (for whites–but minorities should be able to share in it this time).  Let’s not throw it away by internecine fighting over which seat to target and which not to.

  4. And it has to start now.

    Perhaps in 2010 none of these seats will be competitive, but perhaps the zeitgeist will turn against the obstructionists who are doing nothing to help their districts in a time of record unemployment.

    If we have well-positioned candidates, and can bring strong organizational forces to bear, some of these districts may indeed be competitive.

    And if we’re forcing the Republicans to spend money and resources in each one of these districts, that means that Republicans will not be able to focus their resources on a few districts.

    Beth Krom in CA-48 is a great candidate, and is starting at the right time, already raising money aggressively, with the background of an organized political apparatus that has been far more successful than the Democratic party.

    Hopefully in 2010, the Obama campaign won’t divert every single volunteer resource out of California.  

  5. than to continue ignoring the good opportunities here.  The bad thing with relying on them to make things happen though is that they usually have conditions, as I understand it, including naming their candidate and/or requiring that they conform to a particular (non-progressive) type.  So long as they aren’t trying to push out the good candidates who are running again this cycle who stand a good chance of winning (Bill Hedrick and anyone else who fits that description), then I won’t complain.  

    The best thing is to not have to rely on them or have a strong enough hand that you can engage with them from a position of strength.  Bill Hedrick probably doesn’t have to compromise with them so much now, given how competitive he was without their help last time – the DCCC is probably  interested in being associated with him winning even if he doesn’t do their bidding.  

    In the end, though, DCCC will prove their commitment by how many resources they devote to these races – announcements don’t amount to much…

  6. …. I posted my opinion of this over at the great orange satan in the comments under the hapless front pager who had to try to sell it as a good idea.  12 hours have passed so I’m slightly less profane.

    Really, what do you expect. Reward an in increasing liberal registration and voting pattern, and a loss this recent time by half a percentage point, in my home district of CA 04 in northeastern CA with…


    Instead, throw resources at the other districts where, altho it’s a CONGRESSIONAL RACE they are allegedly concerned about, they use the criteria of how did people vote in the Presidential race.

    Yay national organization. wa hoo.  Your concern is duly noted and raspberried. The Republicans rejoice at your cynicism and ineptitude.  


  7. Bill Hedrick came to the Region 17 meeting held in Harbor City and impressed the State Delegates there.  

    We in blue districts need to come together to support Bill Hedrick.

    He has the drive, vision, and campaign operation to unseat Calvert. We need to help him with money and visibility so he ca raise more money and win.

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