Washington political punidt Michael Barone is partially correct in his analysis of the 9 or 10 point loss of Republican Craig Huey to Democrat Janice Hahn yesterday.
The Los Angeles County elections director has tweeted that Democrat Janice Hahn beat Republican Craig Huey in yesterday’s California 36th congressional district special election by a 55%-45% margin. This is in a district that Barack Obama carried 64%-34% in 2008. In other words, the Democrat ran 9% behind Obama and the Republican ran 11% ahead of John McCain. (…)
California 36, in contrast, is an affluent area along the Los Angeles County beachfront, heavily white (look at this terrific New York Times interactive graphic showing the predominant racial group: the coast is a white bastion penned in by black and Hispanic interior areas in Los Angeles County). Historically Republican, primarily because of economic issues, it trended heavily toward Democrats in the 1990s. Republican nominee Craig Huey was spectacularly out of line with the district on cultural issues, but managed to get 45% of the vote anyway. I take this result as evidence of significant erosion in Obama/Democratic support in affluent white areas that are part of large metropolitan areas—a key part of the Democratic national coalition since 1996. (…)
CA-36 is a very gerrymandered Democratic district from a decade old census. The race was uphill for Craig Huey from the start and Huey ran a very good campaign.
The fact is that the Democrats and President Obama are less popular than in 2006 and 2008, but this will make little difference in California politics which is solidly blue Democratic. Republican voters are concentrated in certain areas of California and are overwhelmed by racially based demographic groups that traditionally vote Democratic no matter what. Now whether they turn out is another matter but the numbers are so great that winning is relatively easy for the Democrats.
Any extrapolation of this race to the national mood is probably folly – no matter who is doing the spinning.