As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

D-Trip "Targets" 8 House Seats - I'll Believe It When I See It

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. 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.

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