Rep. Dan Lungren is one what Republicans say are their three vulnerable incumbents in California. His Sacramento-area district was redrawn unfavorably for him.
Elsewhere, Republicans like their matchup between Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann and Garamendi, who they will point out has been running for office for nearly as long as Vann has been alive. Democrats feel better than they ever have about McNerney, whose district improved for him, despite his well-funded opponent, recent law school graduate Ricky Gill.
One undeniable fact is that a vulnerable Republican district in the Inland Empire was completely wiped off the map for Democrats in the primaries. Four opportunistic Democrats splintered their party’s vote, allowing vulnerable Rep. Gary Miller (R) and state Sen. Bob Dutton (R) to advance and assure a GOP victory in what had been seen as a top pickup opportunity for Democrats. But opportunity abounds for both parties, and Democrats have several more targets to pursue.
President Barack Obama won all 10 of the districts the parties agree are competitive, but McCleary argued that Obama vastly outspent McCain in the state in 2008 and that President George W. Bush performed much better than McCain in many of those districts. The only one of the competitive districts Obama didn’t carry is Bono Mack’s.
“The way these districts are drawn, they are set up as virtually 50-50 districts,” McCleary said. “Figuring out how you get beyond the party label — the vote that will naturally be there for you as a Republican or Democrat — how do you get above and beyond that? I think this is what ultimately ends up being the key to our success there, is we have this diverse set of recruits.”
While the primaries defined the playing field, the low turnout was deceptive and largely an unreliable predictor for what the general electorate will look like. GOP consultant Dave Gilliard said that it would be a mistake to read too much into primary results.
“In most of these districts, we will see over twice as many voters in November as we did in June,” Gilliard said.
Paul Mitchell, a Democratic consultant in the state and redistricting expert, said “the largest increase will be among Latino voters.” Mitchell said Latinos were disillusioned by Obama’s lack of movement on immigration issues, but his recent policy shift to allow some young illegal immigrants to stay in the country will be a boon for the party at the House level in California.
“When everyone else in the country saw the president’s immigration policy as important at the federal level, I saw it is as being an incredible stimulus to general election turnout among Latinos in California,” Mitchell said. “Huge for Democrats here.”
California again won’t be competitive at the presidential level, so the NRCC plans to set up call centers to make up for the lack of a strong get-out-the-vote effort from the party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. With assistance from Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Republicans will have a call center for GOTV and voter ID efforts in each targeted district.