New data shows surge of Democrats in vulnerable GOP districts

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There are fewer and fewer Republicans in California, painting a dim picture for embattled Republican incumbents in Southern California.

Over the past 20 years in California, Democrats have gained nearly 1.7 million voters, while Republicans have lost roughly 500,000, according to a new analysis. In Southern California, the analysis shows clear evidence of a surge of Democratic voters since 2012, further imperiling several embattled lawmakers.

Republican incumbent Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (Costa Mesa), Mimi Walters (Irvine), and Steve Knight (Palmdale), who are each facing tough re-election fights, will find only bad news in the new data.

With control of Congress in the balance in 2018, voter registration numbers are just one more piece of evidence that several seats in California could flip from Republican to Democratic control. And Southern California looks to be at the epicenter of this possible transition.

Republicans have long viewed Orange County as one of their strongholds, but this data shows Democrats are encroaching. In Rohrabacher’s district, Democrats have cut the voter registration advantage by roughly five points since 2012. Republicans still have an 11-point advantage in registered voters compared to Democrats, but roughly a quarter of California voters have “no party preference,” a group which tends to favor Democrats in the voting booth.

Recent polls show a dearth of support for Rohrabacher in his district, with only 41 percent inclined to send the 70-year-old back to Congress for a 16th term. His unpopularity has multiple causes, reports McClatchy News Service. “Rohrabacher’s web of ties to Russia have drawn the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team,” reports McClatchy. “But his connection to Trump may be equally, if not more, damaging.”

Weak poll numbers and recent poor fundraising totals will likely embolden Democrats who are seeking to replace him.

The news is worse for Walters, who has seen an 7-point change in voter registration, favoring Democrats. While her district once held a 16-point Republican advantage in 2012, it has been cut to single digits in just six years.

Even though Clinton carried her district in 2016, Walters has made no secret that her agenda is aligned to Trump’s. She supported efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, which are expected to increase health care premiums in California by up to 30 percent next year. She also championed the Republican’s troubled tax bill, which raises taxes on five million Californians. Losing ground in voter registration, along with lackluster fundraising efforts, highlight Walters’ weakness going into November.

Knight fares the worst of the three. In 2012, his district had a 5-point Republican advantage. Since then, Democrats have not only closed that gap but have now overtaken Republicans, and are currently enjoying a 3-point registration advantage.

Even before this new data was released, Knight was considered California’s most vulnerable lawmaker by the L.A. Times. His votes on health care and taxes are extremely unpopular in his district, leading to Knight’s desperate spin around the tax bill.

Like Rohrabacher, polling in Knight’s district show him deeply underwater, with 56 percent of voters disinclined to re-elect Knight, and fewer than 2 in 5 wanting to re-elect him. Knight’s close ties to Trump continue to plague him in a district that overwhelmingly supported Clinton. Those ties may also be hindering his campaign’s fundraising activities, which have been troubling sluggish.

In Southern California districts currently represented by retiring Reps. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Darrell Issa (R-Vista), the data paints a similar story. Royce’s district saw a 7-point swing in favor of Democrats, while Issa’s saw an 8-point swing.

It is no secret that Democrats are targeting Southern California in their quest to regain control of the House of Representatives. Republicans can only lose 23 seats nationwide, and their job defending Southern California targets seems increasingly difficult.