The Obama Eight: CA-48

Cross posted @ DailyKos

Special thanks to Laine for putting this post together. (This is the second time he's helped me get the job done.) Hat tip to you, sir!

Let's take a drive down that ol' 405...

GOP incumbent: John Campbell

Dem : 29%
GOP : 45%
DTS : 22%

Obama's performance (margin / vote):
+0.75% / 49.3%

2008 results
Steve Young : 40.6%
Campbell : 55.7%
Patterson : 3.7%

The CD's "flipability" rating is -16, which measures the disparity between voters' actual voting behavior in 2008 at the top of the ticket versus their party identity. (This puts CA-48 at the far bottom of the Obama Eight in terms of flipability, contrasting, for example, CA-26 and its flipability of +4.) Now let's dig deeper.

The Congressman
The Representative for CA-48 is John Bayard Taylor Campbell III. This guy is Mr. Los Angeles and Mr. corporate conservative credentials. He went to the LA-area prep school Harvard Westlake, UCLA for a BA in Economics, USC for a Masters in Business Taxation, went to work for the accounting firm Ernst & Young, and then ran Saturn, Saab and other dealers in OC.

Campbell's political career got started in 2000, when he ran for an open State Assembly seat and won. In 2004, he moved over to run for an open State Senate seat and again won. In 2005, the CA-48 seat opened up when Chris Cox resigned to become Chairman of the SEC under George Bush. (Apparently, CA-48 has a penchant for sending business / econ wonks to Congress.) In the special election, Campbell took 45.5% of the vote, the highest total, but short of the 50% plus one needed to avoid a runoff. He won with 44.4% in the December 6, 2005 runoff election, beating out Democrat Steve Young's 28% showing, and American Independent Party candidate Jim Gilchrist's 25.1% showing.

In 2006, Campbell ran for reelection to his first full term.He again faced Democratic challenger Steve Young, beating him by 23 points. In 2008, with Obama taking the District, Campbell faced Steve Young for a third time, and beating him resoundingly for a third time. Campbell's numbers slipped just a bit, and Young's numbers increased slightly, but it was still a decisive win for Campbell at 55.7% to 40.6%.

Wikipedia advises:
Congressman Campbell hosts an annual fundraiser named Mai-Tai’s and Mark-Ups on the Wednesday after Memorial Day at Crystal Cove State Park. It is unknown how the party came to be named but it is believed to be indicative of the congressman's legislative process.

But don't think for a second Campbell is your feel-good type of Republican. He's a die hard liberal economic Repub, famous (apparently) for giving out copies of Ayn Rand to departing interns:
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), who gives his departing interns copies of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, told me today that the response to President Obama's economic policies reminded him of what happened in the 51-year-old novel. "People are starting to feel like we're living through the scenario that happened in Atlas Shrugged, said Campbell. "The achievers, the people who create all the things that benefit rest of us, are going on strike. I'm seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs, the people who create wealth, who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they'll be punished for them."

The Dems:
It's certainly possible that Steve Young will choose to face Campbell for a fourth time. Young has been increasing his share of the vote with each election, edging up to 40.6% with the Obama coattails in 2008. But the big news of the last several months was the entry into the Democratic field by Beth Krom, Mayor of Irvine, with a population of over 200,000 and by far the largest city in CA-48. Blogs up and down California have been thrilled at the prospect of running a hardened candidate against Campbell, with real campaigning experience and a fundraising base. The local blog OC Progressive praised Krom:
She can win elections. Beth Krom has won five campaigns, In 2006, she garnered 60% of the vote in her re-election as Mayor and in 2008, won her current City Council seat with 8000 votes more than the next candidate.

And there's data to back up the enthusiasm:
Krom outraised Campbell in the first quarter of the year, and is telling fellow Democrats she wants to have $250,000 by midyear and $1 million by the year's end.... In the first quarter of this year, Krom raised $63,370 to Campbell's $54,500. However, Krom was just starting her campaign account, while Campbell already has $297,000 on hand including money raised before 2009.

The calculus changed, however, just a few weeks ago when tragedy struck the Krom family. On June 8th, Krom's son, Noah, died after an apparent fall from a cliff. He was just a week shy of graduating from UC Santa Barbara. She released the following statement in mid June:
IRVINE, CA, June 18, 2009 — In response to inquiries regarding the impact of her son’s death on her Congressional race, Beth Krom has confirmed that she is fully committed to continuing her campaign to represent the 48th Congressional district.

Beth and Solly remain grief-stricken over the tragic death of their 22 year old son, Noah, on June 6, 2009 in Santa Barbara, California. In recognition of his academic achievements, Krom was posthumously awarded a diploma in Business Economics which was presented to his sister and brother at Commencement by UCSB President Henry Yang.

So Krom is in it to win it - but it's unclear whether this will change the race dynamic over the next year plus leading up to November 2010 and to what extent. Will other contenders throw their hat in?

The Outlook:
We've seen that Campbell racks up big percentages in this district, winning against Democratic candidate Steve Young three times now by 15 or more points. CA-48 has been going pretty red at the top of the ticket, too. Bush took the district in 2000 and 2004 with 60.4% and 58.3%, respectively. In 2008, Obama eeked out a win – still flipping the district by a heck of a swing (John Kerry and Al Gore each only got 40%). On the other hand, the district still has an enormous flipability handicap.

The question remains: Can a Congressional challenger duplicate whatever it is Obama did in 2008? Consider the Dem candidate's flipability gap, or how well that challenger measured up against the flipability and Obama. Steve Young's was almost null.

In other words, the Dem challenger performed about as expected. So we know CA-48's got horrible registration numbers (16% GOP advantage), Obama remarkably overcame those numbers to win it (by a razor thin margin), and John Campbell still won by 15.1% – pretty close to the registration advantage. On the other hand, the Cook Political Report's 2009 update moved CA-48 from R+8 to R+6. So how does this bode for 2010?

Important Links

Steve Young for Congress
(website still up from 2008)

Beth Krom for Congress

OC Register
OC Progressive
The Liberal OC

Democratic Party of Orange County


Three down, five to go! Stay in touch and keep us abreast of the latest!


Packherd said...

The guy has not only three last names but two male relatives with the same three last names. And 'Business Taxation' does not sound like a real degree. I'm not yet convinced that this isn't just a promo for a car dealership that went too far.

But seriously, CA-48 is probably the toughest of the Obama Eight. There just aren't very many Dems. There are, however, about 2% more DTSers than the state average. Therein lies Obama's success, I think.

Mayor Krom, of course, has already won in the district, so why couldn't she win again? Those DTSers would have to be the focus, tho.

It's not so much how can we get a Dem to win, but how can we get an independent to call herself a Dem?

But I still feel better about this one than CA-25.

fnpople said...

This is one of those "maybe one day" races, but not one I'd consider high on a priority list. Beth Krom is a highly skilled candidate, but can she win in a district like this? I'd be happier with a businessman (or woman) with proven skill in running a tight ship.