In several of the state’s most competitive districts — the kinds of races Democrats will have to win if they hope to take charge of the House — Republicans collected more than half the vote.
And in this moment of constant chatter about an “enthusiasm gap” benefiting Democrats in November, California provides a rare barometer for the general election, both because the two parties match up head-to-head in its primary system and because a significant chunk of the nation’s swing districts are in the state.
In the 10th District, which is rated as a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report, GOP Rep. Jeff Denham — one of the top Democratic targets in the country — grabbed just 38 percent of the vote.
Normally, that would be dead-man-walking territory for an incumbent, and cause for the other party to start popping champagne corks. But another Republican, Ted Howze, siphoned 14 percent of the vote. Together, he and Denham accounted for 52 percent.
Republican Rep. Steve Knight, whose 25th District is on all the lists of most-likely to swing, picked up 53 percent of the vote Tuesday against four Democratic rivals.
That doesn’t mean Democratic nominees Josh Harder and Katie Hill can’t beat Denham and McKnight in their respective districts in November. But the Republican majorities on Tuesday do serve as a reminder that the GOP holds the political high ground in the battle for the House.
The GOP also got more than half the vote in the California districts of Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and retiring Ed Royce, who is retiring. Both seats remain vulnerable to Democratic takeover — Rohrabacher, who has been uninhibitedly pro-Russia, did win just 30 percent of the vote Tuesday — but the results, like those in the Denham and Knight districts, suggest Democrats haven’t reached a tipping point with the electorate.
Moreover, Republicans in congressional races will surely point to the strong economic numbers that the president has promoted — historically low unemployment and steady growth among them — as long as they continue. And while Trump’s approval ratings are persistently negative, most of the GOP incumbents don’t carry the same political baggage. That is, they have both swords and shields with which to defend their turf.
For now, Democrats are relieved that they’ll have candidates on the ballot in all the potentially competitive House races in California — a development that was far from certain when voters went to the polls Tuesday and that had Democrats cursing California’s primary system.
Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, tweeted her frustration at the process on Tuesday night before eventually reveling in Democrats’ advancement in each of the races.
“I think I can speak for America when I say CA’s jungle primary is super dumb,” she wrote.