In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race. A forthcoming update will include the 2018 midterm.
It’d be hard to find better Republican hopefuls than Republican Reps. Jeff Denham and Mimi Walters or candidate Young Kim, according to [CA GOP chair Jim] Brulte. They all lost in the “unmistakeable” blue wave.
Republicans feel that wave was exacerbated by voter laws that they say helped Democrats. Also aiding Democrats: They were unified on a health care message that proved hugely effective in 2018. Democrats campaigned as the party that wanted to protect pre-existing condition coverage and make health care more affordable.
Democrats plan to stay with that message in 2020, while both outgoing and remaining Republicans have often concentrated on criticizing the media and new state voter laws.
But, Brulte said, Republicans need to put emphasis on how to appeal to minority groups, groups that widely disapprove of the leader of the party, President Donald Trump.
“Until the issue of immigration is completely dealt with, California Republicans are going to have trouble,” Brulte said, not specifying exactly what that would entail. Trump continues to push for a U.S-Mexico border wall and more restrictive immigration laws.
Walters, the outgoing congresswoman, blamed the party’s troubles on “the machine” of Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and voting laws passed by the “liberal legislature.” California passed four new voting laws that took effect in 2018, such as motor voter and same-day voter registration, all of which made voting easier.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, who retired from Congress and is taking a job with Trump’s administration, blamed the Democrats “turnout machine” and a lack of outside spending by Republicans in certain races.
When asked how Republicans combat all these woes, and what they need to do to turn out their own voters, Issa got on an elevator and remained silent until the doors closed.
Liz Mair at The Daily Beast:
For a bunch of California Republicans, no matter how much of an effort they made, nothing was going to overcome the hurdle of a wildly unpopular Trump as leader of the GOP, a tax reform bill that Trump signed that raised a bunch of normally reliable GOP voters’ tax bills, problems with health care that the GOP under Trump did not appear to be fixing, and immigration and trade policies crafted by Trump personally that have been tremendously off-putting to Hispanic, Asian and—yes—quite a few white voters too. If you believe that demographics are destiny, given Trump’s most Trumpy policies, it was probably already a given that several GOP-held House seats in California would change hands.
But none of this explains the sheer expanse of the losses, whereas a failure of candidates to behave like they were in the fights of their lives actually does.
Valadao, whose district is more than 75 percent Latino, and therefore the most minority-dominated of any Republican-held district in California, undoubtedly suffered because of Trump’s manifest antipathy to Hispanics. The tax bill and trade wars probably hurt him, too. But Valadao also hurt himself big time by making bad decisions and not working hard enough on issues of prime local importance. The best example of this is DACA—a deeply resonant subject in his district, especially.
The truth is, 2018 was always going to be a tough election for Republicans. But Norquist is right: A lot of Republicans lost unnecessarily because they took wins for granted, and didn’t focus on what mattered to their constituents, whether that was the impact of tax reform in California, New York, New Jersey or Illinois, or health care or trade or immigration (I’m a pro-immigration Republican who thinks the party should embrace comprehensive reform, including a path to citizenship). And a bunch of Republicans simply didn’t work for wins; they believed the #fakepolls narrative and delivered middling performances when loads of Democrats were proverbially vying for Oscars.