LOS ANGELES, CA — On Saturday, the highly divided United States Senate nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, making him one of the most controversial justices ever seated while handing President Donald Trump a major victory. It capped off a great week for the president, who also renegotiated a major trade deal and presided over an economy with one of the lowest unemployment rates in decades. But in this week of seeming victories, did he sow the seeds of his impeachment? More specifically, will his downfall be rooted in California?
The midterms are now just a month away, and the House of Representatives is very much in play. Vote by mail starts Monday in California, and there are six Republican seats where Democratic challengers are either ahead in the polls or tied. California is ground zero for the battle to control the house, and polls are emerging that paint a complex picture of the political toll of an extraordinary week in U.S. history.
The only true consensus among pollsters is that the midterms, always somewhat considered a referendum on the president, have taken a decidedly national turn since the Kavanaugh hearings. Voters are reacting to the Supreme Court battle, citing it as their top concern in the November elections. To be sure, the Kavanaugh hearings riled up the Republican base nationwide, helping to shrink the enthusiasm gap among voters that Democrats have enjoyed all year. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows 49 percent of American voters back the Democratic candidate in their local race for the U.S. House of Representatives and 42 percent support the Republican candidate, a seven percent deficit for Republicans but a significant improvement over the 52 – 38 percent lead Democrats enjoyed mid-September.
While that may seem to give Republicans hope, a closer reading should give Democrats confidence, particularly in competitive districts such as California’s four tight races in Orange County, said Fred Smoller, professor of political science at Chapman University. Orange County has long been the heart of California’s conservative movement, but that may be changing.
Recent polls reflect a divide within the Republican party inflamed by the Supreme Court battle. The increase in enthusiasm among conservative women tends to be concentrated among women with lower education and income in rural communities. That suggests the Republican enthusiasm may not reach the urban and suburban communities where Democrats have a chance of flipping the 23 seats they need to win control of the house, Smoller said. In those communities, Democrats are more motivated to head to the polls, he added.
The Kavanaugh hearings are “certainly going to activate Trump’s base, but I think it will energize the Democrats even more particularly here in Orange County,” Smoller said. “I’ve been here a long time and I’ve never seen such a competitive races. Orange County is ground zero for midterm elections.”
In fact, four Orange County districts that have been safely Republican for generations are in danger of flipping to the democrats in November. That’s more than in any other county in the nation. It’s both a reflection of changing demographics and the polarizing impact of Trump, who’s managed to fire up Democrats while turning off Independants and college-educated, urban and suburban Republican woman, according to polls. A poll released this week by by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies for the Los Angeles Times shows Republicans in danger of a wipeout in the all six of the competitive districts statewide.
According to the poll released Thursday, Democrat Mike Levin enjoys a 55%-41% lead over Republican Diane Harkey in the 49th District, which covers northern San Diego County and the southern Orange County.
In the The 45th District, covering central and south Orange County, Republican incumbent Mimi Walters is trailing Democratic challenger UC Irvine law professor Katie Porter by 52% to 45%.
In the 39th District, covering northern Orange County and parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, it’s pretty much a dead heat in the race to replace retiring Republican Ed Royce. Democrat Gil Cisneros has a one-point lead over Republican Young Kim.
In Coastal Orange County’s 48th District Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is tied with Democratic challenger Harley Rouda. Rohrabacher has held his seat without serious challenge for the better part of a generation.
In northern Los Angeles County’s 25th District, Republican Rep. Steve Knight is trailing his Democratic challenger Katie Hill 50 to 46 percent, according to the UC Berkeley poll. It’s the last red district in LA proper.
Things aren’t looking any better for the Republican incumbent in the Central Valley’s 10th District. Rep. Jeff Denham is trailing his Democratic challenger Josh Harder by 5 percent, according to the UC Berkeley poll.
The poll’s margin of error ranges from 4 to 6 percentage points, showing that even the slightest swing in voter sentiment can shift the outcome of each district and the nation on the whole.
“Here you have a president presiding over an economy that is just going gangbusters. We’re essentially at peace, and his approval rating is low. That suggests something else is going on here. In polling, the first rule is: follow the passion,” said Chapman University’s Smoller. “No one is making predictions after the Hillary Clinton debacle. But I would think the house will go blue, and I think the Democrats could pick up at least two seats in Orange County.”
‘Populist’ Trump fills Cabinet with billionaires and Wall Street tycoons
Chicago Tribune: Donald Trump has named Steve Mnuchin — a Goldman Sachs alum and hedge fund manager — to be his secretary of the Treasury, in keeping with his repeated promise to take on Wall Street and the powers-that-be on behalf of the little guy.
So can we stop pretending that Trump’s campaign “populism” was anything other than just one more con?
Didn’t Donald Trump swear on a Bible, to uphold the Constitution of the United States? And then break the laws of that very Constitution by not putting his businesses into a blind trust, like every other president before him?