For a Democratic Congressional Majority in 2018, The Path to Victory Travels Through California

May 5, 2017 |  

The May 4 vote by the U.S. House of Representative repealing the Affordable Care Act with Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare, has set the table for the 2018 mid-terms.  As if to express their electoral confidence in the unpopularity of Trumpcare, immediately after the vote House Democrats sang Steam’s Na, Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye.

Even though the bill still needs to make its way through the Senate before landing on the President’s desk, the Bronx cheer given by the Democrats indicates their confidence in taking control of the House in 2018. Regardless of the outcome in the Senate, yesterday’s vote will be the battle cry.

Confidence aside, the Democrats and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee still faces a big challenge is securing a majority given how many save seats have been Gerrymandered for Republicans. One thing is for certain though – if the DCCC hopes to win control, the path to victory will need to travel through California.

Of the 20 California Republican Representatives, all voted for Trumpcare yesterday. While a Democratic sweep of those seats is improbable, there for several seats that were already in play in 2016, and with strong candidates and financial help from the DCCC, there is a chance some of these seats can be flipped. 

Perhaps the most vulnerable is Darrell Issa. Having survived a narrow victory in a district that has gone from a strongly Republican to one that voted for Hillary Clinton, Issa is rated by Politico as one of the most vulnerable to losing their seat.

Other California Republican Representatives that Politico mentions as vulnerable include Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher. Both preside over districts that also went for Clinton.

Closer to home, Stockton’s Jeff Denham, who was already on the target list by the DCCC, survived his last two elections by the narrowest of margins. The Hill mentioned Denham, along with Issa, Walters, and Rohrabacher on their endangered list. 

It will be noteworthy to see how the vote will affect Rep. Ami Bera, who represents Elk Grove and competes in what is considered one of the most competitive districts in the country.

On the one hand, will Republicans recruit a strong candidate to challenge Bera, who has won each of his three terms by razor-thin margins? There has already been speculation that Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who narrowly lost in 2016, is already positioning himself for another run.

Conversely, can Bera unite the various Democratic party factions within the district such that the National Republican Congressional Committee will use its resources defending vulnerable incumbents like Denham and Issa?    

Even though the elections are about 18 months from now, expect the political messaging to start in earnest in the aftermath of yesterday’s vote. The DCCC has announced plans to target Republicans, regardless of their Trumpcare vote via social media, while Roll Call reports that the Republican-aligned American Action Network will be airing TV commercials thanking specific representatives, including Denham for their vote in support of Trumpcare. 

Given California's battleground role, the 2018 campaign is well underway. 

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