CD39: Did Beltway Prognosticators Overreact To Royce Retirement?

After thirteen-term Rep. Ed Royce announced he wouldn’t seek re-election this year, the Beltway pundit class rushed to declare the Republican hold on CD39 as being in dire jeopardy.  The Cook Political Report and Prof. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball changed their ratings for CD39, respectively, from “leans Republican” and “Toss Up” to “Leans Democrat.” Maybe it looks that way from 3,000 miles away, but the view is different closer to home.

The GOP registration edge in CD39 has narrowed to less than two points, and Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 51.4% to 42.9%. At the same time, Royce racked up 57.2% of the vote during the same election, and there’s no Democratic presidential nominee on the November 2018 ballot. Currently, there are half a dozen unknown Democrat candidates battling it out over who is most left-wing and three Republicans who have actually run and won partisan elections within CD39 boundaries.

The Beltway conventional wisdom that CD39 is the ripe for a Democratic pick-up doesn’t square with Remington Research Group survey of 761 likely CD39 voters conducted January 10 and 11. The margin of error is 3.48%

Trump’s approval/disapproval is 45%-49% – which is significantly better than the RCP favorable/unfavorable average of 39.% to 55.5%.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is more unpopular than Trump: only 39% of CD39 voters view her favorably compared to 50% unfavorably. Furthermore, voters prefer Paul Ryan to Pelosi as House Speaker by 50% to 44%. Those numbers don’t augur well for Democrats as saturation media coverage heightens CD39 voters’ awareness how their ballots will decide who will wield the Speaker’s gavel next year.

When asked “if the General Election for United States Congress were held today would you vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate?”, the response was a 47%-47% split, with 6% undecided. Nationally, the Democrats have a 9% advantage in the generic congressional ballot question.

Although Democrat candidates in CD39 are stridently attacking the recently enacted tax reform as “gutting the middle class,” 55% of CD39 voters think federal income taxes are too high.  The reality is the tax reform is putting more money in these voters pockets, and the news is full of about companies increasing hiring, raising wages, giving bonuses and investing hundreds of billions in the economy because of the tax reform – Apple being the latest example. This suggests these Democrats have prematurely painted themselves into a corner by adamantly opposing cutting federal taxes that a majority of their would-be constituents believe are too high.

All this makes the rush by Beltway pundits to rank CD39 as “lean Democrat” as hasty – not to mention overlooking the distinct possibility given the candidate mix, California’s top-two primary system may produce a November general election with two Republicans on the ballot.

The poll also surveyed head-to-head match ups between Republican Young Kim and two of the Democrat candidates: lottery millionaire Gil Cisneros and Mai Khanh Tran.  Kim, who is supported by Royce, bested them both. She led Cisneros 41%-38% (within the margin of error) and Tran 42%-33%.

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