The Trump Factor in California’s Republican Disaster

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

California Republicans remain in denial about the role of President Trump in their worst shellacking in history. The party’s national committeeman Shawn Steel blames Democratic money, organization, mobilization, demographics, registration, but specifically “not President Trump.” But an actual look at the final results shows that this disaster was Trump, all Trump and nothing but Trump.

This is apparent by examining one of the most interesting factoids about this election. Had Republican Congressional candidates ran as well as their party’s candidate for governor, John Cox, they would have saved four of the seven seats they lost.
That is because Cox actually carried the districts of defeated Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Modesto), GOP candidate Young Kim, (Northern Orange County), Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach). Cox also outran two of the other three Republicans who lost Rep. Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley) and Diane Harkey (Orange-San Diego counties).

The California Target Book has unearthed a few other interesting tidbits about the November election. The gas tax repealer (Proposition 6), on which Republicans placed such hope, actually carried every single GOP-held congressional district, including all seven districts that they lost. Steve Poizner, the former Republican insurance commissioner running for his old job as a no party preference, carried 20 Congressional districts, including all but one of the 14 GOP districts.

There is only one way to read these results: if you could be tied to Trump, you were a goner. Trump, rather than simply the party label, was the key to the Republican disaster.

Republicans should have seen it coming, but they apparently did not. Led by now House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republicans voted for half baked ideas like repealing Obamacare with no replacement in sight, and a Republican tax plan that was specifically written to hurt rich states like California. The GOP’s tax bill capped the deduction for state and local taxes in such a way as to raise taxes for many wealthy Californians.

But these people live in places like Orange County, and this was a factor in the loss of all the Orange County GOP congressional districts, even those carried by gubernatorial candidate Cox. One quarter of all the Republican congressional losses were in just two high income states; California and New Jersey.

Interestingly, Cox received 38 percent statewide, just two points below the GOP candidate running against Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014. And he ran six percent better than Trump who received only 31.6 percent in 2016. In fact, Cox outran Trump by 200,000 votes despite a lower turnout.

But turnout was the real story of how Trump destroyed the California Republican Party. In 2014, just 42 percent of voters turned out, and off year elections had experienced a declining turnout for years. But in 2018, 64 percent of voters turned out, an historical high driven by visceral hatred of Trump among Democrats and many independents. This was manifest in very effective Democratic vote harvesting of mail ballots from low propensity voters. Democrats passed a clever piece of legislation that allows vote harvesting, picking up and delivering someone else’s ballot. Having made this legal, Democratic operatives mastered it, using Trump hate as an organizing tool.

It worked magnificently. Some 40 percent of the ballots were counted days after the election. Republicans did fine in the early vote, and even on election day. Four of the seven seats that were lost had Republicans in the lead on election night, but not after the Democratic vote harvesting blew them away.

Here are the Republican totals before and after election day for the four House seats: CD 10, Denham, 51 percent election night, 45 percent in the late vote. CD 21, Valadeo, 54 percent election night, 44 percent in the late vote. CD 39 Kim, 51 percent election night, 44 percent in the late vote. CD 45, Walters, 52 percent election night, 42 percent in the late vote.

Republicans are now at this historic low in California, but it will only get worse if Trump heads the ticket in 2020. Any Republican up next year ought to hope that somehow Trump is impeached and convicted, and that Vice President Pence is at the top of the ticket. With Trump on the ballot it is not unreasonable to expect Republicans to lose another four State Senate seats (that were not up in 2018), more Assembly members, and a congressman or two. The bottom has not yet been reached.

Comment on this article


Please note, statements and opinions expressed on the Fox&Hounds Blog are solely those of their respective authors and may not represent the views of Fox&Hounds Daily or its employees thereof. Fox&Hounds Daily is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the site's bloggers.