|CA-1 - La Malfa 57.4%-42.6%, Romney 56.6%-40.3%
There isn't much of a chance this district becomes competitive any time soon, but a 15 point win in an R+10 district is a disappointment.
CA-3 - Garamendi 54.2%-45.8%, Obama 54.1%-43.0%
Garamendi wasn't terribly impressive going up against a lesser opponent. This district could conceivably be competitive in a mid-term and Carly Fiorina did win here in 2010. Yet I wouldn't put it on the Republican priority list. Assemblyman Daniel Logue would be the best recruit.
CA-7 Bera 51.7%-48.3%, Obama 50.8%-46.8%
Bera had a weak primary and came way back to win. This is an even PVI district, so Bera's win against an incumbent is impressive. It may have something to do with 7 outside Democratic groups spending in the district. This should be a high priority district for Republicans in 2014, although I haven't found a deep bench to challenge. Sacramento County Supervisors Susan Peters and Roberta MacGlashan may be the best candidates, although candidates from outside this district may consider running. Another possibility is former congressman Doug Ose, although he was last seen losing an ugly primary to Tom McClintock.
CA-9 McNerney 55.5%-44.5%, Obama 57.8%-40.1%
While McNerney underachieved the President by quite a bit, this district was always fool's gold to the GOP. Carly Fiorina lost it and Steve Cooley squeaked out a victory. Republicans have a deep bench here, with possible candidates including US Marshal Tony Amador, Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, and several Stockton city councilmen, but it's not a real good shot for 2014.
CA-10 Denham 52.7%-47.3%, Obama 50.6%-47.3%
Obama got a similar percentage to the nearby CA-7 and Democrats spent heavily here. In this instance the one-sided primary result did hold and Jose Hernandez wasn't Ami Bera. Jeff Denham is a strong incumbent but he is vulnerable. Hernandez wants another shot but even he thinks he's better off waiting for 2016 for that. Democrats don't have a deep bench, so Denham should be in good shape for 2014.
CA-16 Costa 57.4%-42.6%, Obama 58.6%-39.4%
The Central Valley can be wacky for Democrats. They have a 15% registration advantage here and Costa won by slightly less than that against an opponent who spent little money in a Democratic year. I don't think the GOP could win here, however, even with an a-list recruit like Assemblywoman Linda Halderman or Assemblyman Jim Patterson. It's just too Democratic.
CA-21 Valadao 57.8%-42.2%, Obama 54.6%-43.5%
Democrats look at this being a D+4 district with a 15% registration advantage and the Democrat being a non-entity and see a possible win in 2014. That shows a lack of understanding about the Central Valley. Democratic strength is mostly a mirage and this district can't be thought of the way other D+4 districts are thought of.
1. This was the only district in California that didn't become more Democratic with on-line registration.
2. The district was 434th out of 435 in ballots cast in 2012.
3. This was the only congressional, assembly, or state district where the Republican won by a greater margin in the general election than his party won in the primary. That was hardly a fluke. The same thing happened in 2010.
4. Jim Costa barely won that district in 2010 even though Barack Obama won it 59%-39% in 2008.
5. Valadao's win was by a greater margin than wins by Doug La Malfa or Buck McKeon and was by a similar margin to Darrell Issa and Ed Royce.
This Central Valley district has a White population that is largely rural and votes very Republican. There are the fewer swing voters here than you see elsewhere in California. The Democratic rolls have low turn-out transient Democratic Hispanic farmworkers, some of whom probably don't live in the district in November, let alone vote. There are certainly Democratic votes here and Republicans will need to defend, but they should be able to do that.
CA-24 Capps 55.1%-44.9%, Obama 54.1%-43.1%
The Obama numbers are similar to CA-3, but Capps did better against a better opponent. Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and former senator Sam Blakeslee might be possibilities and it's possible it could be vulnerable in a mid-term since Fiorina did win here in a mid-term. I wouldn't put this one on a priority list.
CA-25 McKeon 54.8%-45.2%, Romney 49.7%-47.8%
McKeon's win is underwhelming and should be cause for concern. The district, however, was R+3 in 2008 and remained R+3 in 2012. Because Obama did worse in 2012 that meant it went from an Obama win to a Romney win. I've had personal experience with McKeon during campaign season and he spends his time and money campaigning for other candidates. I don't think McKeon will be vulnerable in 2014 but it's worth watching for 2016.
Similar to CA-10 and CA-21 the Democrats don't have much of a bench here, but we should keep in mind that they didn't have a bench in CA-7, 26, 36, or 41. They won all of those seats with non-politicians or, in the case of CA-26, importing a candidate from outside.
CA-26 Brownley 52.7%-47.3%, Obama 54.0%-43.7%
This district is only slightly less Obama than CA-3 and CA-24 but both Fiorina and Cooley did better. Brownley didn't do as well as Garamendi or Capps. That's either because this was an open seat or because she isn't as strong. This is a second tier GOP priority and I think Tony Strickland should it another shot. He's a great fundraiser and popular in the district.
CA-31 Gary Miller no Democrat, Obama 57.2%-40.6%
Can you name another district held by a Republicans where Obama got 57% of the vote? [toe tap toe tap] There aren't any. Democrats aren't going to blow the primary the way they did in 2012. I don't see a path to victory for Miller in 2014.
CA-36 Raul Ruiz 52.9%-47.1%, Obama 50.7%-47.5%
No result surprised me nearly as much as this one did. Democrats had never won a congressional seat that was primarily in Riverside county. Yet, with the mass influx of Democrats into the county, winning one was inevitable. It was just a question of when and where.
I wouldn't have thought that where would be CA-36. Mary Bono Mack had withstood previous challenges and her 2008 percentage exceeded McCain's by more than many of her California colleagues. When Bono Mack won her primary by 16.2%, her victory seemed assured. The district had a Republican registration advantage until the October report, although it doesn't now.
Ruiz's victory was even more impressive when you consider that he exceeded Obama's percentage by more than any other Democrat in a competitive senate, assembly, or congressional district. This is clearly a swing seat, but Ruiz shouldn't be dismissed as a fluke. It'll be a top priority.
The bench is really deep here, with a bunch of candidates waiting for Bono Mack to retire. Senator Bill Emmerson is the most prominent, but he'll be 69 in 2014. Assemblyman Brian Nestande and Hemet mayor Robert Youssef are younger up and comers. Riverside Supervisor John J. Benoit and Indio mayor Glenn Miller are also possibilities.
CA-39 Ed Royce 57.8%-42.2%, Romney 50.8%-47.1%
Jay Chen and his brother's SuperPac threw a ton of money at Ed Royce and they barely made a dent. The district went from R+5 to R+4 and Chen was second to John Hernandez in Democratic underperformers compared to Barack Obama. So it's doubtful it'll flip any time soon. I'm perfectly happy if Democrats think Royce is vulnerable and want to put more money in here,.
CA-41 Mark Takano 59.0%-41.0%, Obama 61.5%-36.3%
Do you want to know how a political outsider wins in an area that doesn't elect Democrats? Register so many Democrats that candidates don't matter. Republicans never had a shot here.
CA-45 John Campbell 58.5%-41.5%, Romney 54.8%-43.0%
The district went from R+6 to R+8, but Democrats apparently are salivating at taking another shot at Campbell. This was Meg Whitman's second best district in the state. Mimi Walters won it by 17 points and she was the worst performing Republican candidate in a mid-term since 1986. Again, be my guest.
CA-47 Alan Lowenthal 56.6%-43.4%, Obama 60.0%-37.5%
Lowenthal underperformed Obama by 5 points two party, although I think Gary DeLong being a strong candidate had a lot to do with that. A district with Long Beach looked like an attractive steal for Republicans but it's too Democratic to win. Of course Orange County congressional seats don't come open often and Supervisor Janet Nguyen may give it a try.
CA-49 Darrell Issa 58.2%-41.8%, Romney 52.3%-45.7%
Obama won the district in 2008, but it was something of a fluke, because both Whitman and Fiorina won the district in a landslide two years later. This year, the district went from R+3 to R+5 and it'll be more Republican in a mid-term. Democrats can still dream of taking out Darrell Issa.
CA-52 Scott Peters 51.2%-48.8%, Obama 52.1%-45.7%
This is a bit of a perplexing district. Republicans have a registration advantage here, but Obama did better than he did in districts where Democrats have a registration advantage. That's not a complete shock, however, since the district was D+3 in 2008, but only D+1 in 2012.
I can make a long list of possible candidates Supervisors Pam Slater-Price and Ron Roberts, Poway Mayor Don Higginson, and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein are all possibilities, but the best candidate would be 2012 mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio. Obama won the city of San Diego 61%-36%, but DeMaio lost narrowly 52%-47%. He'd be a formidable candidate in a mid-term.
Republicans didn't do well in 2012 but this election had a great top of the ticket for Democrats. Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein are certainly most popular politicians in the state in the last 25 years. Not having them on the ticket and a different mid-term electorate should help the GOP.
Republicans should lose CA-31 in 2014 regardless of how the environment looks. They do, however, have multiple opportunities to pick up seats, but none is anything certain. There are reasons to think the Presidential election in 2016 could be better for Republicans and reasons to think it could be worse. That election is still four years away and we should learn a bit from 2014.