Media Weathervane Allan Hoffenblum: Time To Duck, Yacht Party
Allan Hoffenblum is the publisher of the California Target Book and the most-quoted pundit with respect to state elections. He is a weathervane for party money and which Party is up or down. He spoke yesterday in Sacramento and was incredibly blunt.
At a conference sponsored by Hoffenblum's publication, the Republican identified eight congressional seats and 13 state Assembly seats as competitive. Nearly all of those Assembly seats and more than half of the congressional seats are now held by Republicans.
"I think this is going to be when we find out if the Republican Party has any life left in it whatsoever as far as being a statewide competitive party," said Hoffenblum, whose publication tracks and handicaps races throughout the state.
A drop in Republican registration and an influx in decline-to-state voters who have not traditionally voted with the GOP have put some districts formerly considered "safe" Republican seats into play.
"I think it's going to be a very, very difficult road on the Republican front if they don't do something about registration, something to appeal to decline-to-state voters, many of whom are Latinos and Asians who have not been voting Republican for the last four election cycles," Hoffenblum said.
This actually flies in the face of predictions at the national level of a 1994 redux. But it does meet with the general trend in California, as a diverse population drops any love for the Republican Party altogether. As Hoffenblum noted, eight Congressional districts held by Republicans went for Barack Obama over John McCain last November, and 12 Assembly districts held by Republicans share the same trait. A smart party with targeted resources could easily pick up more Congressional seats and the number in the Assembly needed to secure a 2/3 majority. In the state Senate, one of the two seats needed for 2/3 looks pretty ripe for takeover - SD-12, where Asm. Anna Caballero is the Dem candidate and Sen. Jeff Denham is termed out.
I actually am not quite as sanguine as Hoffenblum. There are Democratic-held seats that could face a fight - at the Congressional level, I think Dennis Cardoza might have some trouble with Mike Berryhill, and the swing Assembly districts held by Alyson Huber, Joan Buchanan and possibly others could be threatened. The demographics of the 2010 midterms will be more favorable to Republicans than the demographics of the 2008 Presidential election. And the failures on the budget, and the ensuing suffering, could easily resonate with voters against the majority party if Democrats aren't careful.
But in general, as Hoffenblum said, the trend in California from the standpoint of the electorate is away from conservatism and toward progressivism, and that march will simply be extremely difficult to stop. Public attitudes have not only been trending against minority rule but against the entire brand of failed conservatism that brought us the tragedy of the Bush years. While practically every party in the White House loses seats in a midterm election, the peculiar dynamic in California may blunt that impact - and could lead to a better future for California as well.