Trump, GOP Congress Are Hurting California's Republican House Members

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Activists stage a sit-in to protest the GOP tax reform bill outside the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) on Dec. 5, 2017. Voters in Rohrabacher’s coastal Orange County district now say they want someone new in office, by 51 to 41 percent. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

New data back up what many have assumed: Republican members of Congress in California are being weighed down by the unpopularity of President Trump and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Two Berkeley IGS polls found voters in the districts of Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) are disinclined to re-elect them. By a margin of 56-38 percent, Knight's voters are disinclined to re-elect him, while voters in Rohrabacher's coastal Orange County district by 51-41 percent also say they want someone new.

Both Knight and Rohrabacher represent districts with changing demographics that Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election. Both races have been rated toss-ups by nonpartisan analysts like the Cook Report.

"They both appear to be facing headwinds," said UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies pollster Mark DiCamillo.

Southern California Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) could face a tough reelection in November.
Southern California congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) could face a tough re-election in November. (U.S. Congress)

He adds that voter attitudes in the districts closely follow approval of Donald Trump and the policies he has embraced. Knight's support for the recent GOP tax bill and an effort to repeal Obamacare are also hurting his standing.


"What that says is that Republicans are facing kind of a nationalized election," DiCamillo says. "What’s happening in Washington matters a lot to how voters feel about re-electing their incumbents."

The polls come as Congress grapples with a deal to protect the so-called Dreamers, recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In Rohrabacher's district, voters support by a 2-1 margin a path to citizenship for Dreamers: 66 to 33 percent. They also oppose by 61 to 37 percent a plan by the Trump administration to open up the coast to offshore oil drilling.

Support for both incumbents falls along partisan lines. But independent or "no party preference" voters strongly oppose both Knight and Rohrabacher.

Voters in Dana Rohrabacher’s Orange County district now say they want someone new in office, by a 51 to 41 percent margin.
Voters in Dana Rohrabacher’s Orange County district now say they want someone new in office, by a 51-41 percent margin. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

"The no party preference voters are disinclined to re-elect the incumbent about 2 to 1," DiCamillo said. "So the winds are definitely running against the incumbents in the swing voter blocs."

In the June primary, Knight will face a rematch with Democrat Bryan Caforio, who lost to Knight by 53 to 47 percent in 2016.

Two other Democrats, Katherine Hill and Jess Phoenix, have also raised significant amounts of money, according to the latest campaign finance filings with the Federal Elections Commission.

Rohrabacher also faces several Democrats with respectable amounts of campaign cash.

Two other Republican incumbents from California, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Darrell Issa (R-Vista), have announced they'll retire at the end of their terms.

Rohrabacher has long been supportive of Russia and Vladimir Putin.

Last year the New York Times reported that the Kremlin even gave him a code name.