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I decided to do a double feature for these diaries, since the election is close and I wanted to offer my analysis on both of these seats.

CA-24 reverted to a form similar to the 1992-2002 configuration after redistricting and that also returned it to being a competitive seat. Rep. Lois Capps won the seat three times in that configuration and is well positioned to do that again. Years before that, the seat was ancestrally Republican, held for years by Bob Largomarsino, who was primaried out by Michael Huffington. When Huffington vacated the seat to run for Senate against Dianne Feinstein, he was replaced by Andrea Seastrand, who was hardcore right-wing and only narrowly defeated Democrat Walter Capps, he went on to win the seat narrowly in 1996.

Even though that competitive seat is back now, it does have more of a Democratic lean than it did those years ago, which is mostly due to Santa Barbara proper and San Luis Obispo proper, as it has they have tilted more liberal since. Santa Barbara's neighborhoods are very interesting in voting patterns, regardless of income level, all of them vote very Democratic. Some more vote more Democratic than others, which is the case with all neighborhoods in an city, but still, the margins are not as polarized between income levels as some other places are. Santa Barbara is also one of the few places to have an increase in white population (75% white in 2010, vs. 74% white in 2000), yet still trend more Democratic, which is impressive by political standards. In the CA-24 race, Maldonado's biggest hurdle is the heavy lift of gaining in Santa Barbara, not just because of the political demographics, but because of Capps being well liked and also being from Santa Barbara proper. If this was an open seat, it would be a different story, but even then, Democrats would still have a strong chance.

The only areas of the city Maldonado would have a chance to gain votes in are Los Positas and San Roque, which are very Democratic, but less so than the Downtown, Eastside and Westside. Both the Eastside and Westside are majority Hispanic and lower income, while Downtown has a strong abundance of progressive. Los Positas and San Roque are more suburban and middle to upper income. Another neighborhood is The Riviera, which is high income, but very Democratic and reliably so. Unincorporated Mission Canyon is also fairly wealthy, yet very Democratic. Maldonado has the best chance at running up large number in the unincorporated area between Goleta and Santa Barbara, which is more Republican leaning. Overall, Santa Barbara is a really strong Democratic anchor.

The rest of the county votes fairly Republican, but Capps will can do better than the required benchmarks in each of the municipalities in interior Santa Barbara County. Lompoc has a narrow GOP registration advantage (48 voters) while Santa Maria has a Democratic registration advantage (2000 voters) and both these places will be critical to Capps' overall numbers. Staying at 40% or above it is a must. Santa Maria being Maldonado's hometown would suggest that he would over perform, but it is in Capps' current district, so she has an advantage of incumbency there, which could cancel out an over performance by Maldonado.

As you can see, unincorporated Santa Barbara County weighs heavily in the vote distribution. In coastal county, you have Isla Vista, the college community which votes overwhelmingly Democratic and in north county, you have Orcutt, a suburban community that votes overwhelmingly Republican. Turnout among UCSB students in Isla Vista is necessarily for Capps to meet a good benchmark and in a presidential year, she'll get it. Maldonado will look to over perform in Orcutt, but some conservatives might sit it out because of his tax increase vote in the state senate.

Out in San Luis Obispo County, Republicans have registration advantages in most of the cities, but Democratic San Luis Obispo proper equals a good portion of the vote share of the county overall. San Luis Obispo is a fairly progressive town, so Capps meeting the benchmark highly likely. Even if Maldonado heavily over performs everywhere else in the county, as long as Capps posts strong benchmarks in San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, she wins. I do expect her to hold her own better than these benchmarks suggest, I just wanted to demonstrate what a very narrow win would look like.

Arroyo Grande 3.15% 40.00% 60.00%
Atascadero 4.56% 40.00% 60.00%
Buellton 0.72% 40.00% 60.00%
Carpinteria 1.91% 60.00% 40.00%
El Paso De Robles 4.05% 40.00% 60.00%
Goleta 4.72% 65.00% 35.00%
Grover Beach 1.73% 40.00% 60.00%
Guadalupe 0.48% 65.00% 35.00%
Lompoc 3.98% 40.00% 60.00%
Morro Bay 1.98% 55.00% 45.00%
Pismo Beach 1.60% 40.00% 60.00%
SLO 7.52% 65.00% 35.00%
Santa Barbara 13.65% 67.00% 33.00%
Santa Maria 7.22% 40.00% 60.00%
Solvang 0.91% 40.00% 60.00%
Uni. SLO 18.42% 40.00% 60.00%
Uni. SB 23.40% 51.00% 49.00%
  100.00% 50.12% 49.99%
As you can see, unincorporated areas play a huge role in the benchmarks and will be where much of the action is at. I expect that Capps will do better as far as some of these benchmarks go, but again, this is just demonstrate of what it would take for a narrow victory. Capps' ground operation is good and she also benefits from strong ground operations from Hannah-Beth Jackson, who is running for state senate.


CA-36 was ranked Likely Republican for most of the cycle, as there was always a slight chance that it could become a competitive race. Well, that slight chance panned out, as the race is now a Toss-Up, with committees from both parties dropping big bucks in the home stretch. Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs (or Ft. Myers) faces a strong challenge from Dr. Raul Ruiz of Coachella. Bono Mack has shown that she is in a tough position, as she has attacked Ruiz over his arrest at a protest years ago and for reading a letter from a rebel leader about Leonard Peltier, but neither of those things has stopped PACs from spending. The Desert Sun, the main newspaper in the Coachella Valley, where CA-36 is centered, gave it's endorsement to Ruiz, stating that Bono Mack has done good in the past, but is now too comfortable in Washington and also too negative in campaigning. There was also the revelation of Bono Mack seemingly agreeing in amusement with a radio host who called Coachella a “third world toilet”. Bono Mack has also come under criticism by a prominent band of Native Americans in the area for her negativity and for her claim that the band is controlled by Democrats.

As you know, Bono Mack replaced her late husband, Sonny Bono in the seat back in 1998 and has had little trouble holding the seat since. It has been a Republican-held seat since it's creation after the 1980 census. The closest any Democrat came to winning it was in 1990 when Al McCandless was held to a 5% majority by Ralph Waite (better known for starring John Walton on the series the Waltons).  But over time, demographics and redistricting have made this a prime opportunity for Democrats.

From a standpoint of presidential numbers and PVI, this district didn't change, but what did change was the amount of very safe Republican territory that Bono Mack could rely on. Strongly Republican Murrieta was dropped and that took away some of Bono Mack's security. In it's place, less Republican leaning territory was added, such as Banning and Beaumont, along with San Jacinto. Let's look at the numbers.

  Ruiz Bono Mack
Banning 5.81% 48.00% 52.00%
Beaumont 5.74% 43.00% 57.00%
Blythe 1.86% 48.00% 52.00%
Calimesa 1.98% 35.00% 65.00%
Cathedral City 7.65% 62.00% 38.00%
Coachella 2.79% 85.00% 15.00%
Desert Hot 2.98% 59.00% 41.00%
Hemet 14.09% 41.00% 59.00%
Indian Wells 1.51% 31.00% 69.00%
Indio 10.42% 57.00% 43.00%
La Quinta 8.46% 43.00% 57.00%
Palm Desert 11.40% 41.00% 59.00%
Palm Springs 10.89% 67.00% 33.00%
Rancho Mir. 4.92% 40.00% 60.00%
San Jacinto 5.61% 48.00% 52.00%
Unincorp. 3.87% 48.00% 52.00%
  100.00% 50.04% 49.96%
As you can see, Ruiz needs strong baselines in the most Democratic portions of the district. Palm Springs is going to be the toughest, since Bono Mack has always run ahead of Republicans at the top of the ticket there. Chipping away at that crossover support is a key component of Ruiz winning the seat and I think Bono Mack's very negative tone as of late will make it possible for Ruiz to do just that. Ruiz's latest internal poll shows him up by six, so he looks to have momentum. Plus, Democrats took a 149 voter lead in vote registration totals for the district, which is a change from a 3% registration lead that Republicans had when the new district maps were released by the commission.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    26, Male, CA-24 (new CA-26), DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

    by DrPhillips on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 04:10:21 PM PDT

  •  Avila Beach (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    George3, Zack from the SFV

    Do you think the near total rebuilding of Avila Beach on Unocal's dime will effect anything? The town looks like someone moved a couple of blocks of Downtown Santa Barbara up the coast 100 miles.  

    Terry Phillips for Congress in 23rd District of California.

    by hankmeister on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 04:20:42 PM PDT

  •  I live in CA-24 (5+ / 0-)

    I live in CA-24, work in CA-24 (old CA-23) and have been working on campaigns here for the last decade.

    I think the city of Santa Maria is your best bellwether. I think Southern SLO county is less Republican than Northern SLO county, so you might want to put your benchmark at 40 in those places (though they are different) and more like 35 in Paso Robles and Atascadero.

    Morro Bay is more liberal than that, but at 10,000 people it has less population than a neighboring unincorporated community.

    I agree that Capps is going to have to bank votes hard in Santa Barbara, because the rest of the county is pretty conservative and SLO county on the whole is 50/50 depending on who shows up.

    Isn't there a part of Ventura County also in the new district?

    GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

    by Attorney at Arms on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 04:22:57 PM PDT

    •  Responses (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The portion of Ventura County is so small, I incorporated it's numbers with Santa Barbara County.

      I do think Capps will do well in Morro Bay, I was just showing what her lowest possible electoral floors are.

      26, Male, CA-24 (new CA-26), DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

      by DrPhillips on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 04:54:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good to see Ruiz's campaign (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zack from the SFV, MichaelNY

    pushing the previous Democratic trends in CA-36. If he wins, I feel like he'll hold it for a long time.

    "Once, many, many years ago I thought I was wrong. Of course it turned out I had been right all along. But I was wrong to have thought I was wrong." -John Foster Dulles. My Political Compass Score: -4.00, -3.69, Proud member of DKE

    by ArkDem14 on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 06:03:18 PM PDT

  •  I used to live in Santa Barbara (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Zack from the SFV, MichaelNY

    I LOVE the summary you had of the neighborhoods. When I lived there, I would have thought that the Mission Canyon area was more Republican.

    I can definitely see how Romney can make gains in the Las Positas and San Roque areas. They do seem Democratic leaning but they definitely could have some upper income swing voters who could tilt the election. The Riviera I was a bit surprised it was Democratic now that I found out.

    Hope Ranch though I always knew was Republican so I am not surprised when I found out recently it is Republican leaning (although Obama did pretty well there in 2008, basically tying there.)

    When I lived in Santa Barbara in 2004, there were so many yard signs for Kerry and Bush and there were just a few more Kerry signs so I thought it was more of a split community.

    Also, over on the other side of the Santa Ynez Mountains in the Santa Ynez Valley, it is definitely a totally different and more conservative world. In 2004, all I saw there were big Bush signs.

    The area I lived in while in Santa Barbara though was near La Cumbre rd. close to highway 154. It is at the western boundary of Santa Barbara so it could be in the area you were describing as being a place Maldonado would get votes. It was an also an area my Dad thought would vote for Bush because it had lots of white middle to upper income voters who seemed to lean Republican (we had a very religious family living next door but they seemed less conservative on other issues because they liked this recycling based art place.) I can see now though how the voters may have swayed toward Obama in 2008 and how Maldonado may be able to make inroads in that area between SB and Goleta.

    For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

    by Alibguy on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 07:43:28 PM PDT

    •  Santa Barbara has changed a lot, very quickly (0+ / 0-)

      Mission Canyon and the Riviera would seem to be Republican friendly, but a lot of upscale liberals have moved in, plus a lot of moderates who were already there that have left the GOP. Santa Barbara changed a lot since I lived there, too. It's gone from light blue to more of a dark blue as a whole.

      26, Male, CA-24 (new CA-26), DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

      by DrPhillips on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 12:09:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  excellent information (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

       I sure hope Dr. Ruiz can pull it out in CA-36.

         Weird coincidence: both incumbents are members of the CA Congressional Widows caucus. Everyone knows Sonny Bono, but Walter Capps originally won the seat away from the GOP but died after about a year in office. He was a professor at UCSB before his election. Lois Capps won the special election to fill the vacant seat and has held it ever since.

          Trivia question: Who is the other CA widow of a House member now serving in the House?  Hint--she's from NorCal.

    Diehard Swingnut, disgruntled Democrat, age 54, new CA-30

    by Zack from the SFV on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 08:11:27 PM PDT

  •  Great work - This is the best run through (0+ / 0-)

    of CA-36 that I have seen, will be very useful when checking the results. CA-24 is also good stuff.

    I guess my question relates to CA-36 - you give a scenario for a narrow win for Ruiz, but which areas is Obama likely to do well in ? Presumably some of those voters might be convinced to vote for Ruiz as well. Or is Obama not much above Generic D here ?

    Town Planner, 30 years Old, Election Junkie, "If you agree with Bush's economic policy, Cheney's foreign policy, and Santorum's social policy, you loved Romney's speech" - James Carville (aka the Ragin Cajun) on the Colbert Report

    by CF of Aus on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 03:15:45 AM PDT

    •  Obama will probably run slightly ahead (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CF of Aus

      CA-36 is a place that will have a few ticket splitters that will be voting Obama-Bono Mack, but I expect those will be minimal and Ruiz will get support from most Obama supporters.

      26, Male, CA-24 (new CA-26), DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

      by DrPhillips on Sat Nov 03, 2012 at 07:47:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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