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Does Obama Have Coattails in California

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Among the uncertainties of this election is the extent to which the expected Obama win in California will affect the competitive races; that is, will there be Obama coattails in the high turnout for a presidential election year.  Fortunately, it is possible to make some projections on the Obama and Romney margins in the most hotly contested congressional and legislative elections.

Statewide polling and election results have been quite consistent in California.  In 2008, the Field Poll and Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Poll both showed the coming Obama landslide in their final surveys.  Field said he would win California by 22 points, PPIC by 23.  President Obama carried California by 24 points, 61 percent to 37 percent for Sen. John McCain, an historic landslide driven by the financial collapse and the excitement generated by the Obama candidacy.

This year, five statewide surveys have shown virtually the same results, an Obama win by approximately 14 points:

Field Poll: Obama by 15 points
PPIC Poll: Obama by 12 points
LA Times/USC Poll: Obama by 14 points
Survey USA Poll:  Obama by 14 points
Reason-Rupe Poll: Obama by 15 points

An Obama win by 14 points will give us a breakdown of 56 percent for Obama, 42 percent for Romney with two percent for minor candidates.  This represents a ten point swing to the Republicans from 2008 when the Obama surge gave him 61 percent to just 37 percent for the hapless McCain.

The California Target Book has published the 2008 breakdown for all the new 2012 congressional and legislative districts.  So, let’s compare the 2008 Obama-McCain numbers to the projected 2012 Obama-Romney numbers in the competitive districts.

Congress:

CD 7 (Bera v Lungren)
Actual 2008: Obama 51%, McCain 46%; Projected 2012: Obama 46, Romney, 51%

CD 9 (McNerney v Gill)
Actual 2008: Obama 56%, McCain 41%; Projected 2012: Obama 51%, Romney 46%

CD 10 (Hernandez v Denham)
Actual 2008: Obama 50%, McCain 47%; Projected 2012: Obama 45%, Romney 52%

CD 21 (Hernandez v Valadeo)
Actual 2008: Obama 52%, McCain 46%; Projected 2012: Obama 47%, Romney 51%

CD 24 (Capps v Maldonado)
Actual 2008: Obama 56%, McCain 41%; Projected 2012: Obama 51%, Romney 46%

CD 26 (Brownley v Strickland)
Actual 2008: Obama 56%, McCain 41%; Projected 2012: Obama 51%, Romney 46%

CD 36 (Ruiz v Bono-Mack)
Actual 2008: Obama 50%, McCain 47%; Projected 2012: Obama 45%, Romney 52%

CD 41 (Takano v Tavaglione)
Actual 2008: Obama 59%, McCain 38%; Projected 2012: Obama 54%, Romney 43%

CD 47 (Lowenthal v DeLong)
Actual 2008: Obama 58%, McCain 39%; Projected 2012: Obama 53%, Romney 44%

CD 52 (Peters v Bilbray)
Actual 2008: Obama 55%, McCain 43%; Projected 2012: Obama 50%, Romney 48%

State Senate

SD 5 (Galgiani v Berryhill)
Actual 2008: Obama 53%, McCain 44%; Projected 2012: Obama 48%, Romney 49%

SD 27 (Pavley v Zink)
Actual 2008: Obama 57%, McCain 40%; Projected 2012: Obama 52%, Romney 45%

SD 31 (Roth v Miller)
Actual 2008: Obama 56%, McCain 41%; Projected 2012: Obama 51%, Romney 46%

SD 39 (Block v Plescia)
Actual 2008: Obama 60%, McCain 37%; Projected 2012: Obama 55%, Romney 42%

Assembly

AD 8 (Cooley v Tateishi)
Actual 2008: Obama 52%, McCain 45%; Projected 2012: Obama 47%, Romney 50%

AD 32 (Salas v Rios)
Actual 2008: Obama 52%, McCain 45%; Projected 2012: Obama 47%, Romney 50%

AD 49 (Lin v Chau)
Actual 2008: Obama 60%, McCain 36%; Projected 2012: Obama 55%, Romney 41%

AD 61 (Medina v Batey)
Actual 2008: Obama 60%, McCain 36%; Projected 2012: Obama 55%, Romney 41%

AD 66 (Muratsuchi v Huey)
Actual 2008: Obama 55%, McCain 42%; Projected 2012: Obama 50%, Romney 46%

The conclusion is that neither presidential candidate will have extensive coattails in these competitive races.  President Obama may marginally help Lois Capps (CD 24) Julia Brownley (CD 26), Mark Takano (CD 41) and Alan Lowenthal (CD47) in districts that slightly lean Democratic, while Mitt Romney may provide some help to Jeff Denham (CD 10) and Mary Bono Mack (CD 36), both of whom are thought to be in some trouble in Republican leaning congressional districts.

In the four competitive Senate districts, Obama may help Marty Block a bit in SD 39. He may of marginal help to Fran Pavley (SD 27) and Richard Roth (SD 31) in their races.  In the Assembly, both Ed Chau (AD 49) and Jose Medina (AD 61) are being pressed by strong GOP candidates in districts that are Democratic on paper, and Obama could help them prevail.

But the underlying story is that this not a coattails election – winning or losing will depend on the quality of the campaigns, not the top of the ticket.

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