Democrats Are Scrambling As Republicans Take Ground In Deep Blue State

Midterm woes are mounting for the Democratic party as the GOP makes significant gains in one of the last states in which Americans expect to see Republicans close to power.

Two California Democrats are losing to Republican candidates for the U.S. House after having the polling advantage over their GOP opponents, according to the latest midterm election forecast from FiveThirtyEight. The political opinion poll changed its predictions to show that Republican California Reps. Mike Garcia and David Valadao are now the favored candidates in their reelection efforts over their Democratic challengers.

Garcia won his congressional seat for California’s old 25th House District in 2020, defeating former Democratic California state Assemblymember Christy Smith by just 333 votes, according to the Los Angeles Times. The two are now competing again for California’s 27th Congressional District after Garcia’s 25th District was changed during the state’s redistricting process. (RELATED: California Midterm Election Betting Odds – Election Forecast for 2022)

Garcia beat Smith again in California’s top-two primary race in June from a large pool of candidates, receiving 49% of the vote to Smith’s 35%. Remington Research Group’s April polling of likely California primary voters had Garcia garnering 44% of voter support and Smith 34%. While 39% of likely voters told the poll they had a favorable opinion of Garcia, 35% said they had no opinion, and 26% had a negative view of him.

The 27th District is geographically similar to Garcia’s previously drawn district, except that it is now missing a massive chunk of Republican voters in Simi Valley in North Los Angeles County, according to the New York Times. The outlet said the redistricting left Garcia “holding on by a thread to a considerably less conservative seat.”

This was true as Smith was the favored candidate, according to FiveThirtyEight. However, its latest predictions show Garcia with a 63% chance to win his reelection over Smith at just 37%. Politico also predicts that Garcia will take the seat because he “retains a fundraising advantage that he’ll need in the pricey Los Angeles market.”

Garcia has raised just under $3,552,200 more than Smith, according to OpenSecrets. The campaign finance website reported that he also has $1,233,226 “cash on hand” compared to Smith’s $719,000.

In California’s 22nd Congressional District, Republican California Rep. David Valadao is running against Democrat California state Assemblymember Rudy Salas.

Unlike Garcia, Valadao was defeated in his nonpartisan primary election, only receiving 25% of the vote to Salas’ 45%. Valadao’s loss to Salas was partly because of a competitive Republican challenger, Chris Mathys. He beat Mathys by just under 3 points. (RELATED: It’s High Time We Make It Illegal For Kids To Be On The Internet)

Valadao was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in 2021 to make it out of his primary race to face a Democratic candidate in November. The likely difference between Valadao and the other Republicans is that Trump endorsed GOP primary opponents against all of them except Valadao.

Voting to impeach Trump wasn’t the first time Valadao had to distance himself from the former president. “Fighting to retake his blue-leaning seat two years ago, [Valadao] had to ward off accusations he was a ‘yes man’ for [Trump],” The Washington Post reported. “In ads, the Republican touted his role in a bill signed by another ex-president: Barack Obama.”

Cal State Bakersfield Assistant Professor of political science Jeanine Kraybill told The Bakersfield Californian that Valadao is straddling the line with supporting Trump because he needs to be able to “satisfy both sides.”

“It’s a dance. It does show that [Valadao] knows that he has to have this multifaceted approach,” Kraybill said.

Valadao is running against a strong Democratic opponent who touts his work as California’s Assemblyman to the Central Valley, including his 2017 vote against increasing the state’s gasoline tax, KGET reported.

“I’m always going to do what I feel is right for Central Valley families, whether that’s a Democratic idea, a Republican idea, an Independent idea,” Salas told the outlet. “That was the right vote for our Central Valley families. That was the right vote for people on a fixed income. That was the right vote for people that have to travel for everything.”

While Valadao does not have as much runway as Garcia, he still leads with a 56% chance to win over Salas’ 44%, according to FiveThirtyEight, which lists the race as being “slightly favored” to win for the Republican.

The trend against Democrats continues nationally as Republicans took the lead in recent polling due to decades-high inflation, according to an October survey released by USA Today and Suffolk University. Among likely voters, 49% said they would vote for Republican congressional candidates in November, compared to the 45% who indicated they would vote for Democrats.

In July, the same poll had Republicans losing to the Democrats by 4 points, but the number of undecided voters was also 10% higher. Undecided voters made up 16% in July, but that number dropped to 6% in October, with Republicans getting the lion’s share of the undecided voters.

Despite Democrats hoping they could use abortion to stave off any GOP midterm gains, more than twice as many likely midterm voters told pollsters that the economy and inflation were their top issues over abortion and immigration, according to the poll. Among voters, 66% said the U.S. was headed in the wrong direction, and 53% disapproved of President Joe Biden’s job in office, the poll showed. (RELATED: POLL: Republicans Pull Ahead Just Before Midterms As Inflation Remains Voter Priority)

Jonathan McCollum, a lobbyist with Davidoff Hutcher & Citron and Democratic campaign advisor, told the Guardian that Republican success would depend on their ability to hammer home inflation.

“Prices just simply haven’t come down, and I think for a lot of people, that’s a reflection of government spending and that there hasn’t been enough action by the Biden administration to tackle inflation,” said McCollum. “Republicans have spent a tremendous amount of money in advertising, especially in these swing states and just really hitting on inflation over and over and over again, and I think that message has started to break through.”

Mary Rooke