California House Republicans facing tougher headwinds

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California Republicans find themselves facing tough new headwinds moving into the homestretch of the race for the House. 

The Golden State is decidedly blue ––Democrats already hold 39 of the state’s 53 House seats –– and the ratio might become even more lopsided next year, as some of the nation’s top election forecasters now deem three California Republicans to be increasingly vulnerable with less than three weeks to go before Election Day. 


Reps. Darrell Issa, Jeff Denham and Steve Knight are all in the midst of “tossup” contests, according to analysts at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a division of the  University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. The ratings are shared by the election experts at the Cook Political Report.  

A fourth California Republican, Rep. David Valadao, is more secure but also in a vulnerable spot, according to both Sabato and Cook. Meanwhile, Rep. Pete Aguilar, a California Democrat, is now considered the “likely” victor heading into Nov. 8, the Sabato analysts said, upgrading their earlier ranking.  

Just a week ago, Issa, Denham and Knight were all deemed safer bets by the UVA team. 

But the lawmakers’ fortunes have fallen alongside those of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE, the Sabato analysts found. The GOP nominee has run a divisive campaign that, among other controversies involving attacks on women and minorities, has featured a hardline approach to immigrants arriving from south of the border –– a message that could haunt down-ballot Republicans in a state like California where 28 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic. 

“Ultimately, Trump is just a bad fit for diverse California, and Republicans may not have much reason to vote,” wrote Kyle Kondik, Crystal Ball’s managing editor.  

“In addition to an unappealing nominee at the top of the ticket, the Senate race features two Democrats, he added, referring to the contest to replace retiring Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerPolls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday Establishment Democrats rallying behind Biden MORE (D-Calif.). Because of California’s “jungle primary” structure, which promotes the top two primary vote getters to the general election regardless of party, both contenders in that race are Democrats. 

Smelling blood, the Democrats are now charging hard into those districts in hopes of maximizing the number of seats they can pick off from the historic majority of Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) and the Republicans. Part of that strategy hinges on exploiting Trump’s incendiary image and linking him to the Republicans down the ballot. 

“The extreme records of Congressmen Jeff Denham, Steve Knight, and Darrell Issa left them vulnerable to Donald Trump’s toxic candidacy,” said Barb Solish, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

Denham, in his third term, and Knight, in his first, are relatively obscure lawmakers. But the eight-term Issa is practically his own brand. 

The wealthiest member of Congress, Issa rose to be chairman of the House Oversight Committee in 2011 after the Republicans won control of the House. From that perch, he became the public face of the Republicans’ efforts to undermine President Obama on a host of issues, and the Democrats are practically drooling at the thought of picking off the partisan firebrand. 

On Friday, the House Majority PAC, a Democratic political action committee, launched an ad promoting Issa’s challenger, Doug Applegate, an Iraq War veteran with no prior political experience.  

The Democrats are also trumpeting new internal polls that show Denham’s opponent, Michael Eggman, with a 5-point lead and Knight’s challenger, Bryan Caforio, in a dead heat in a district Mitt Romney won by two points in 2012. 

The Republicans’ campaign arm declined to comment Friday. 

The editors at the Los Angeles Times were not as silent. They weighed in on the tighter races this week, saying the GOP lawmakers “have no one to blame but themselves.”  

“While these districts have shifted demographically, many becoming increasingly Latino, GOP elected officials have steadfastly refused to abandon or soften positions  –– on guns, climate change, immigration and other hot-button issues –– with which most Californians disagree,” the paper said in an editorial.  

“The sexist, xenophobic rhetoric coming from the disastrous Donald Trump presidential campaign certainly won’t help California Republicans win on Nov. 8.”

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