Races to Watch: California’s 48th Congressional District

In the run-up to this year’s midterm elections, you’re probably following at least a few races, likely ones that are either happening near you or garnering nationwide coverage. With hundreds of federal elections occurring on one day, though, it’s obviously difficult to keep track of them all. The purpose of this column is to shed light on different contests by answering three questions: Who’s running?; What are the polls saying?; Why is it interesting?

This time: California’s 48th congressional district!

Who’s Running?

The Republican is incumbent Dana Rohrabacher, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1988. Rohrabacher also worked in the Reagan Administration as a speechwriter. He finished first in the top-two primary, with 30% of the vote.

The Democrat is Harley Rouda, who is a lawyer and businessman. He finished second in the top-two primary, with 17% of the vote.

In terms of “the issues,” both candidates have chosen to highlight different areas: Rohrabacher, a rank-and-file Republican with possible ties to Russia, opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and prioritizes energy and the environment; Rouda, a progressive Democrat, wants “forward-thinking policies that benefit the middle class,” improved education access, and gun reform.

What Are the Polls Saying?

Like most House districts, there haven’t been many reliable polls of this particular race. Nevertheless, they show a close contest that slightly favors Rouda.

Cook Political Report has this race as a Toss-Up. Inside Elections has this race as Tilt Democratic. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has this race as a Toss-Up. FiveThirtyEight gives Rouda a 2-in-3 chance of winning. Polls

Why Is It Interesting?

This race is on my radar because of the narrative it tells.

Rohrabacher is a long-time incumbent, who has fully adopted the stances of a standard Republican. Rouda, on the other hand, has never held political office, and is branded as a progressive with mainstream appeal; indeed, he’s been endorsed by both Our Revolution and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Notably, Rouda was a longtime registered Republican who donated to John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.

These facts, paired with the increasingly blue nature of the district (it voted for Clinton by 2 points, despite Romney winning by 12), make CA-48 incredibly interesting. Additionally, this district — and others like it — and vital pickups if Democrats want to flip the House. A Rouda win here could mean similar gains nationwide.

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report argues, “[the] blue wave is most super-charged in elite, professional suburbs where Trump is woefully unpopular with college-educated voters, particularly women.”

California’s 48th fits that description perfectly.


If you have any races you’d like me to profile, reach out on my Contact Page.



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