Sunday, October 29, 2017

Will Orange County Help Save America From Trump Next Year? Rohrabacher's Race


Dana Rohrabacher's district, CA-48, covers 42 miles of coastal Orange County-- the primest of the prime residential real estate in Southern California. It stretches from Seal Beach in the north through Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach down to Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Three Arch Bay where Darrell Issa's district starts. It's been a very Republican district for a very long time. In 2015 the PVI was R+7. This year, though... R+4. No one remembers a Democrat presidential candidate winning the district-- Romney beat Obama 54.7% to 43.0%-- but last year, the distaste for Trump was so pronounced that Hillary beat him 47.9-46.2%. The DCCC didn't back the Democratic candidate, Sue Savary and incumbent (since 1988) Dana Rohrabacher beat her 165,987 (58.5%) to 117,716 (41.5%). Rohrabacher spent $646,004 to Savory's $102,133.

2018 will be an entirely different race. Rohrabacher, who has been implicated in Putin-Gate and is viewed by U.S. intelligence agencies as a possible spy for the Russians, has 2 Republican challengers-- Stelian Onufrei and Paul Martin-- and 8 Democratic opponents. (The DCCC was determined to give Hans Keirstead the nomination and pushed two other CA-48 residents, "ex"-Republican lottery winner Gil Cisneros and pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran into the equally crowded 39th district.) This are the Democratic challengers, listed in order of money raised-- with their self-funding in parenthesis:
Harley Rouda- $600,292 ($230,500)
Hans Keirstead- $464,307 ($55,400)
Omar Siddiqui- $322,833 ($255,786)
Michael Kotick- $236,727 ($130,452)
Laura Oatman- $163,389 ($11,578)
Tony Zarkades- no report
Boyd Roberts- no report

Last week, Democratic front-runner, Harley Rouda, one of the 2 New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (the other being Han Keirstead), was pushing a poll of likely voters that he commissioned from Tulchin Research. The memo claims "a statistical dead heat in a hypothetical general election between Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Democratic Harley Rouda" but doesn't include stats on hypothetical general election match-ups with any of the other candidates. Worse yet, a generic Democrat beats a generic Republican in the district 42% to 40%.

Goal ThermometerWorse for Rohrabacher is that Trump, with whom he is closely associated, is "viewed unfavorably by nearly 6 in 10 voters (58%) and very unfavorably by nearly half (48%) of voters. Meanwhile Putin proves a universally unpopular figure as he is viewed unfavorably by 87 percent of voters, including nearly two-thirds (65%) who view him very unfavorably, and is viewed highly negatively by Democrats (96% unfavorable), independents (92% unfavorable), and Republicans (77% unfavorable)."

In California's jungle primary system, all the Democrats, all the Republicans and all the 3rd party candidates compete on the same ballot and the top two-- regardless of party-- move on to the general election. With 3 Republicans running it'd even possible, though unlikely, that 2 Democrats will wind up in the general election, although that would take evens stronger revelations about Rohrabacher's relations with the Kremlin than have come out so far. Last August we looked at the first GOP opponent that Rohrabacher drew, Stelian Onufrei and last week the OC Weekly looked at the new Republican in the race, Paul Martin. Hew refers to his party's incumbent as "Depraved Dana Rohrabacher."

But the best coverage of the CA-48 race this cycle is easily a blogger who goes by the nom de guerre "Crazy Dana Rohrabacher." His posts use the header: "The congressman for California's 48th district wants you to think he's a supercool surf dude who feels your pain. He's actually a Russia-loving, Trump-worshiping coward who avoids his constituents as if they carried a deadly virus. Heck, try giving him a call. You'll never hear back (Unless you're pledging a big donation)." And he digs for the details and presents the sharpest analysis of anyone covering the election so far. A couple of weeks ago he went to the Aliso Niguel Democratic Club's forum in Laguna Niguel and rated all 7 participants.

The big loser was-- as usual-- the DCCC, whose hand-picked recruit, Hans Keirstead has proven to be a much better candidate on paper than in real life. Here's the Crazy Dana ranking from the forum:
1. Harley Rouda: So I met Harley for breakfast several months ago, and came away with mixed feelings. I liked him, I thought his heart was in the right place. But I couldn’t tell how well versed he was on issues, and whether his background (Ohio, not California) would hurt. Well, he sorta owned tonight. Harley has a presence-- a factual presence. He speaks clearly, he stands straight, he looks like the president of a bank. When he referred to Donald Trump as “a madman … a threat to world security,” people felt the rage. Is he liberal enough for far-left Dems? Maybe not. But do the optics work when he stands next to Dana Rohrabacher? Yes. Can he hold his own in a debate setting? Based on this evening—also yes.

2. Michael Kotick: Throughout the early stages of this race, a solid 95 percent of the attention has been devoted to Rouda, Hans Keirstead and Laura Oatman. Among other things, that means guys like Kotick have sorta slipped beneath the radar. Well, tonight the 34-year-old Nestlé executive emerged. I found Kotick to be energetic, smart, extremely informed and articulate. Late in the evening the candidates were asked by a high school student to name what they considered to be the greatest threat to America. There were varied replies, most of them flat and predictable. Kotick’s statement, however, morphed into this poignant address on how we, as Democrats, need to stop bashing folks who voted for Trump, and instead work on wooing them. For my money, it was the moment of the night.

3. Laura Oatman: I met Laura for the first time earlier today, at Starbucks, and I walked away impressed. I thought she really soared through the first, oh, 40 percent of the event-- then dropped precipitously. In particular, three of the candidates were asked a question related to the FAA, and planes flying inappropriate patterns as they leave Orange County. Both Rouda and Keirstead deftly offered their takes. Oatman, meanwhile, admitted she really didn’t know much about the problem. This was both honest and (to be blunt) unfortunate. People tend to hate politics because the practitioners are deemed full of shit. But sometimes you do (factually) have to bullshit your way through an answer. This was one of those moments.

Oatman also went on a bit of a riff on how, with women in charge, things work out better. Which may well be true. In fact, it probably is true. But those sort of lines, while good for quick applause, don’t fly in a general election when 50 percent of your voters are male.

Bright side: She owned climate change and spoke passionately about her desire to run out of love for Orange County. Those were stirring (and important) moments.

4. Omar Siddiqui: Really interesting candidate with the most unique background of the bunch. Throughout the election I’ve repeatedly heard Siddiqui referred to as a “Reagan Democrat,” and (just being honest) I cringe. I mean, on the one hand, whoever runs against Dana Rohrabacher will have to be moderate. This is non-negotiable—you can’t win the 48th with a granola-eating, John Denver-quoting, Bernie Sanders-immitating uber liberal. I wish you could, but we’re not there yet. So perhaps “Reagan Democrat” is OK. But … well … um … when the phrase was uttered, you felt a cold shudder in the room. You just did. Stylistically, I also didn’t love his need to stand with every answer, as the other candidates sat. It felt rehearsed and inauthentic.

That all being said, Siddiqui has worked as a private advisor and consultant to the FBI, and he was the only person in the room able to name drop personal encounters with Barack Obama and James Comey. That kind of thing matters, especially when you’re running against a congressman who’s been around since the heyday of Juan Samuel and the Cabbage Patch Kid.

5. Hans Keirstead: So I’ve now seen Keirstead twice, and I’m increasingly confident that the Democratic National Committee*-- which seems committed to backing Hans as its candidate of choice-- is making a mistake. Resume? Check. Money? Check. Turns invisible in a room? Check. I’m not trying to be mean, because he seems like a lovely guy. But Keirstead was barely noticeable, even though he sat in the front of the room. He also tends to answer in long, winding statements and sentences. When asked to name America’s top threat, he said, “Macroeconomic destabilization of the country.” And while this is, in fact, a valid thought, it’s also one that leaves 75.7 percent of the folks in any room collectively scratching their heads.

In short, he’s quickly becoming the Jeb Bush of this race. That needs to change.

6. Tony Zarkades: Of the seven people on the stage, this is the one I’d choose to have a beer with. That said, I’d also enjoy a beer with George W. Bush.

Zarkades goes by “Tony Z.” That’s mistake No. 1-- it comes off amateurish. I’m selecting a congressman, not my son’s flag football coach. Mistake No. 2-- he just didn’t seem to have a strong grasp on the specifics of issues. These sort of events can by dry and sleep-inducing, but they do serve to expose people who might not be ready for the majors. Tony Z was entertaining, sincere, dogged, funny. But I couldn’t imagine voting for him over the five other prime candidates.

7. Boyd Roberts: I mean … um … eh … I’ll just leave it with this: His stated goal is to have 100 percent of Orange County voting blue.

My stated goal is to fly to Jupiter in five minutes powered by Coca Cola and Thin Mints.
Reminder: Siddiqui identifies as a "Reagan Democrat" and decided not to run in the district he lives in because the Republican incumbent, Ed Royce, is someone he really likes and respects and thinks is a great congressman. (Royce is a virulent racist and one of Ryan's most loyal lieutenants-- and a Trump rubber stamp). Keistead and Rouda were both endorsed by the corrupt Wall Street-owned New Dems, a very, very bad sign-- unless you're looking for Republican-lite candidates who will get to Congress and vote against progressive policies. The progressive in the race is Laura Oatman. We're still trying to figure Michael Kotick out but he sure comes off as an earnest, out-of-the-box, original thinker.

* He means the DCCC, not the DNC. The DNC isn't involved in congressional races and doesn't know Hans from Tony Z. The DCCC recruited Hans and has been trying to grease the skids for him. They should get way better recruiters or, better yet, stay out of recruiting altogether.

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