Hahn Victory Portends Obama Defeat
By JOHN SEILER
Yesterday Democrat Janice Hahn beat Republican Craig Huey to fill the 36th Congressional District, a severely gerrymandered district covering much of Southwest Los Angeles. But her victory total, getting just 55 percent, was a severe drop from the 69 percent Jane Harmon won during the 2008 election that swept fellow Democrat Barack Obama into the White House.
As the map at right shows (click for a bigger version), the 36th has long, narrow patches connecting heavily Democratic districts. Democrats have an 18-point registration advantage there, making a Republican win nearly impossible.
The seat was vacated earlier this year by Jane Harmon, who became the head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In 2009, Harman had come under investigation for alleged ethical breaches, but no action was taken against her.
Despite the Democratic registration advantage and the gerrymandering, Hahn won by only 55 percent to 45 percent. Her victory number was the lowest victory number since Harman won with 48 percent in 2000. That was before the severe 2001 California state gerrymandering that led to the passage of Proposition 20 last year, which established the Citizen Redistricting Commission currently working on the redistricting following the 2010 U.S. Census.
Despite her ethical difficulties, last November Harmon garnered 60 percent of the vote, and a whopping 69 percent in 2008. After the 2000 redistricting, in the gerrymandered 36th Harman never got less than 60 percent.
Tea Party Power
So Huey’s showing, although not a victory, demonstrated both the power of the Tea Party activists who supercharged his campaign and the dissatisfaction with the national economic policies of Obama and his fellow Democrats. It does not bode well for the Democrats next year.
National unemployment rose from 9.1 percent in May to 9.2 percent in June. And California’s rate was 11.7 percent in May, a number likely to rise when June figures for the state are released next week.
Part of Hahn’s problem was her mixed message on the economy. Her Web site explained in a section “Economy and Jobs”: “In Congress, Janice will fight to create new jobs, expand clean energy technologies and ensure that local small business owners get the help and opportunities they need to flourish in a global economy.” (Bold face in original.)
And her Web site even had a special section, “Green Jobs Plan,” which read: “Seeing solutions to a lingering recession and a local unemployment rate of more than 12 percent, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn today announced her plan to create 25,000 green jobs.” No date was given for “today.” The specifics of the plan were laid out in a separate .pdf.
But those standing for months in unemployment lines don’t care about “green” jobs. They just want jobs, period — green, red, brown, black, blue, white, yellow, anything. They want to work and get off unemployment insurance and food stamps.
Hahn campaigned as if she were Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, running during the phony real estate boom on a green platform based on AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which he had just signed into law. California’s unemployment rate in 2006 was 4.9 percent, less than half what it is now.
Obviously, national economic policy is the most important factor affecting California. But despite all the promises of a green jobs bonanza, AB 32 has not sparked a jobs recovery. Neither has Obama’s national green jobs program.
Obama Re-Election in Question
Check out the above numbers again. From 2008, Obama’s big victory, to yesterday’s election the Democratic candidate’s vote dropped from 69 percent to 55 percent — a 14-point drop.
In 2008, Obama won California handily, with 61 percent of the vote. But if he loses 14 percentage points of that, he would get only 47 percent and lose to the Republican nominee. The last Republican presidential candidate to win California was the first President Bush in 1988, a vice president riding on the high popularity of incumbent President Reagan, a Californian.
That’s unlikely to happen in 2012. Obama almost certainly will win. But as the 36th District’s results show, the election should much closer than was the 2008 election.
Moreover, in 2008 Obama won with 53 percent of the vote at the national level. If he drops 14 percentage points nationally, in 2012 he would get just 39 percent — a total wipeout. That’s on the level of the 41 percent Democrat Walter Mondale got in 1984 against Reagan; or the 38 percent Democrat George McGovern got in 1972 against Republican Richard Nixon, a California native.
Obama is unlikely to drop quite that far into the electoral abyss. But Hahn’s relatively poor showing yesterday in the 36th District shows that he and other Democrats are going to have a tough time in 2012. He won in 2008 on promises of fixing an economy broken by the Republican Bush administration. But the economy only has gotten worse.
Unlike in the November 2010 election, yesterday’s election again made California a bellwether for the nation.
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