This program was an offshoot of the state party. It was responsible for more than 4 million voter contacts statewide and spent $2.4 million on mail as part of its get-out-the-vote effort, according to a source directly involved. Half of its funding came from organizations such as the National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican National Committee, and McCarthy had to raise money to fund the other half.
“We will certainly continue to be on offense in California during the 2014 midterms,” McCarthy spokesman Mike Long said. He added that McCarthy has always said the effort to put infrastructure and resources on the ground would take two cycles to fully implement.
The top targets for Republicans start with Reps.-elect Scott Peters, Ami Bera and Raul Ruiz, who all knocked off GOP incumbents. Former GOP Rep. Doug Ose, among others, is already being talked about as a potential challenger to Bera.
Other top GOP targets include Democratic Reps. John Garamendi and Jim Costa, who Republicans believed showed signs of weakness in 2012 and were greatly assisted by the presidential turnout. There is also still hope in Ventura against Rep.-elect Julia Brownley.
“The time to get them back is the first time these guys are up for re-election,” Gilliard said. “If they get entrenched, it’s going to be difficult, so I hope Republicans do make an effort to win some of these seats back in two years.”
By all indications, they will.
McCarthy is expected to take what worked with the Victory operation in 2012 and enhance it this cycle. Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who was also heavily involved, said in an interview that it’s a necessity to keep up with well-funded and Democrat-supporting labor unions.
“We have to build an operation that competes with the public employee unions,” Nunes said. “We did it in my area, but we have to replicate it across the state.”
Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, who survived a strong Democratic challenge, said the Victory operation succeeded in helping the party speak with tens of thousands of voters across 12 targeted districts. But the party still was not as successful as it had hoped, and Denham believes individual campaigns need to improve their message delivery to the different voting blocs.
“One of the things that was different about my campaign is we were actually on Spanish radio and on TV and in the Spanish newspapers,” Denham said. “And we need to do that statewide.”
For their part, Democrats believe the 2012 gains came in districts that turned out to be more Democratic than initially believed, and they view 2014 as a chance to pick up some of the seats they left on the field this year. A Democratic source said the party’s GOP targets begin with Rep.-elect David Valadao, who won the Central Valley-based 21st District against an underfunded opponent, and Rep. Gary G. Miller, who moved into a Democratic-leaning district.
Thanks to the new primary dynamic, Miller faced a fellow Republican in the general. It’s unlikely he’ll be so lucky this cycle, and Miller will go into 2014 as the one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.
Meanwhile, Republican optimism is tempered by the financial failures of the state party and the lack of a legitimate bench of candidates capable of competing statewide.