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Looking Ahead to 2010 Elections, Part 5

Continuing the analysis of recent House results with an eye toward the 2010 cycle, let’s take a closer look at California. Democrats currently enjoy a 34-19 seat advantage in the House delegation, and maximizing beyond that will be tough. But CA is home to eight so-called “Obama Republicans,” GOP House members in divided districts because Barack Obama beat John McCain district-wide in 2008.

POLIDATA provides an asterisk in four of these districts because the presidential results are so close, but in all eight Obama’s margin was very thin. Those eight, with first Obama’s margin and then the share of the vote received by the Republican House winner, are:

  1. Dan Lungren (CA-3), Obama margin: 0, Lungren share: 50
  2. Elton Gallegly (CA-24), 3, 58
  3. Buck McKeon (CA-25), 0, 58
  4. David Dreier (CA-26), 4, 53
  5. Ken Calvert (CA-44), 0, 51
  6. Mary Bono (CA-45), 5, 58
  7. John Campbell (CA-48), 0, 55
  8. Brian Bilbray (CA-50), 4, 50


Gallegly, McKeon and Bono look relatively safe, with Campbell to a lesser degree. But the remaining four Republicans all squeaked by. Looking at the split-ticket voting effects here, there are essentially four subgroups of two districts each. You have districts where:

(a) despite Obama’s slight margin and presumed coattails, the Republican incumbent is pretty safe anyway (Gallegly, Bono);
(b) Obama’s margin and presumed coattails likely brought an otherwise safe winner into some electoral jeopardy (Dreier, Bilbray);
(c) Obama and McCain basically split the district, but the Republican outperformed McCain anyway (McKeon, Campbell); and
(d) Obama and McCain basically split the district, and the Republican House candidate barely got to 50 percent (Lungren, Calvert).

Because the first two groups could not be taken down even with a strong Obama coattail, and in the third the GOP incumbent outperformed McCain despite Obama’s strength in the district, the last group offers the most logical targets for 2010.

And 2010 will be the last chance to get them out under the current districts, which were much more favorable earlier in the decade, before demography began to work against these Republicans. “With these gerrymandered districts, it used to be you just needed to turn out your base,” former political director of CA’s Republican Party told Ron Brownstein and Scott Bland. “For the first time, Calvert, Lungren, and the rest will have to get the swing votes.”

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