Legal Insurrection readers may recall that as mail-in and absentee ballots were counted after the November 2018  election Republicans lost several seats in California districts.  The losses include seven in Orange Country, a former reliably red area of the state.

Democrats had targeted seven Republican-held seats in California that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. They claimed six of those, capitalizing on President Trump’s unpopularity in the state and attacking incumbents who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and/or supported the 2017 tax bill, which limited deductions in high-tax states like California.

[Democrat Gil] Cisneros edged out Republican Young Kim after trailing by almost 3,900 votes on Election Night to join Harley Rouda, Katie Porter and Mike Levin as Democratic newcomers to the House from Orange County.

Rouda’s victory was especially noteworthy: He defeated 15-term Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher.

Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel lives in Orange County. He indicates that the the GOP’s 2020 goal includes reversing the 2018 loses, noting that first-term members of Congress tend to be vulnerable.

He attributed the 2018 losses to a financial advantage for Democratic candidates that he predicted wouldn’t happen again.

“You didn’t have a blue wave, you had a green wave,” he said.

Earlier this month, Orange County prosecutor Ray Gennawey, a Republican, announced his campaign in the county’s 45th District, where Democrat Katie Porter defeated Republican Rep. Mimi Walters last year.

First-term Democratic Reps. Harley Rouda in the 48th District and Mike Levin in the 49th will also be defending seats all or partly in Orange County.

There is a good case that “purple” districts could be reclaimed, especially in light of the socialism flavoring the platforms of many potential Democratic presidential hopefuls.

The Republican strategists said a couple California seats could be in play — particularly if the Democratic presidential nominee was a staunch progressive such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

“Cox isn’t the strongest candidate, for example,” said Kevin Spillane, a veteran Republican political consultant based in San Diego, pointing out that Cox had originally been running in a different district with a crowded Democratic field before relocating his campaign to the 21st district around Fresno. Cox won the seat by less than 1,000 votes.

“These are purple districts, so people will be watching how liberally he votes and how in touch he is with his district,” Spillane said.

Stutzman also pointed to Democratic Rep. Katie Porter’s 45th congressional district as one Republicans could reclaim. Porter of Irvine defeated two-term Republican incumbent Mimi Walters in November. Stutzman called Porter a “misfit” for the district.

“I mean, you’re telling me an Elizabeth Warren protegé can last in Irvine?” Stutzman said. “I don’t know.”

Based on this analysis, there is some reason to be optimistic that California representation could be a shade redder at the end of the evening on Nov. 3, 2020. To start with, polls about Trump’s popularity are notoriously unreliable, and the best of them (Rasmussen) has been showing him hovering around 50%.

California has had several incidents of people being attacked for MAGA hats and Trump t-shirts. So, I suspect there are plenty of “shy Trump” voters in the Golden State who will vote Republican in 2020 in the privacy of the voting booth.

Additionally, there will be plenty of “green” for this wave. Republican National Committee (RNC) raised a record-breaking $14.6 million in February, the most it ever has collected in a non-election year month and its second-best February in its history.

Governor Gavin Newsom ordered a moratorium on the state death penalty and looks poised to gut our oil and gas industry—two issues that are not endearing him to the majority of Californians. In 2020, California voters may look to send a message to Sacramento by their choices in national representation.

Finally, following accusations of voting irregularities in key races in several states (including California), the RNC approved a major new working group to focus on ballot security measures and support for candidates facing election challenges.

A federal court consent decree, ended last year, had prohibited the RNC from engaging in ballot security activities for nearly 40 years. The aggressive new step, Fox News is told, is meant to level the playing field with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as close elections increasingly become litigious and, in turn, bring discord, division and fiery talking points.

…In California, where Republicans suffered major defeats in the fall, Democrats changed the law to permit “ballot harvesting” — letting campaign operatives take residents’ ballots to the polls on their behalf.

I am normally an optimistic person. However, I refuse to get emotionally invested in the outcome of this election until we are a little closer to Nov. 2020. I suspect much will depend on the economy and on whom the Democrats choose for the top of their ticket.


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