One week after a surprisingly weak performance in California’s primary, GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, famed for investigations into Obama administration scandals, now finds himself vulnerable to defeat by Democrats.
A high-level national Democratic campaign source told me on Tuesday that Issa’s 49th District (San Diego County) “has recently come on our radar” and that the conservative lawmaker would almost certainly be targeted by both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Under the Golden State’s unique electoral system in which all candidates regardless of party compete on the same ballot, eight-termer Issa led Democrat Doug Applegate by an unimpressive margin of 51 percent to 45 percent.
Issa and political newcomer Applegate, a retired U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel, will next square off in a November showdown.
At 62 and after 16 years in Congress, Issa is inarguably the Republican lawmaker Democrats love to hate. As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2010-14, the Californian oversaw relentless probes into scandals ranging from Benghazi to the Solyndra bankruptcy to the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov.
The Californian and his hearings are frequently likened in the liberal media to the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis., and his pursuit of Communist infiltration in the federal government during the 1950s.
Issa himself told reporters upon assuming the Government Reform chair that he wanted “seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks.”
“Part of the reason [for Issa’s perceived vulnerability] is a pretty notable Latino population in the 49th District,” explained our national Democratic source, noting Latinos now comprise roughly 15 percent of Issa’s constituency.
The same source pointed out that this is a district Barack Obama carried in 2008 with 50.6 per cent of the vote and is one in which the electorate is “highly educated. And when you factor in the animosity of minorities and highly educated voters toward Donald Trump, [Issa’s] is the kind of district Democrats are now saying could change hands in November.”
This was a reference to remarks made a day earlier at a Christian Science Monitor press breakfast by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan and DCCC Political Director Kelly Ward.
Although neither mentioned California-49 as a Democratic opportunity, both Lujan and Ward emphasized that Trump was enhancing Democratic opportunities in suburban GOP-held districts like Issa’s.
“The same voters that are creating those opportunities for us and making those districts competitive are those that like Donald Trump the least,” Ward said.
Republicans in California, however, were quick to dismiss the growing feeling among national Democrats that Issa is vulnerable.
“He is not,” State GOP Chairman Jim Brulte told me, “There's absolutely no correlation between primary results and general election results.”
Brulte also noted that “there was a much higher Democrat turnout driven by the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders battle then there was Republican turnout.”
Jon Fleischman, editor of the Flash Report on California politics, agreed. “I assume this unusually low GOP turnout is due to many Republicans choosing not to vote rather than support Donald Trump,” Fleischman told me.
“Second, there was a much higher Democrat turnout driven by the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders battle than there was Republican turnout.”
Come November, our Democratic source insists, “there will be the reality of a turnout of voters who like Donald Trump the least, and that will help Doug Applegate.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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