Dana Watch: Numbers Racket
Bob Aul

Dana Watch: Numbers Racket

It should be troubling enough to the Republican Party that the 48th Congressional District seat currently occupied by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Rubbing Bengay on Putin's Bare Chest) has gone from "Lean Republican" to "Tilt Republican" in Nathan Gonzales' nonpartisan Inside Elections and "Leans Republican" to "Toss Up" in Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball, which is also nonpartisan, and the Cook Political Report, which enjoys bipartisan respect.

But now comes a new poll suggesting at least one Democrat is gaining on The Mouth That Rohrabachered, whose district, you'll recall, supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Harley Rouda, a technology entrepreneur, former Republican and first-time candidate for Congress, is in a statistical tie with Rohrabacher, according to San Francisco-based Tulchin Research.

One Tulchin poll found Rohrabacher leads in a hypothetical general election by a margin of just 4 points, with 48 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Rouda. Turns out voters in the 48th don't like Trump and they despise Vladimir Putin, according to Tulchin, which found Rohrabacher's own constituents see him as being close to both.

"We should note that Putin is extremely unpopular in this district (6 percent favorable to 87 percent unfavorable), so Rohrabacher's strong support for the Russian leader is a real liability," state the Bay Area pollsters. "Rohrabacher's woes have extended to fundraising, where he has trailed behind most other Republican incumbents, taking in just $182,000 in the third quarter of 2017—roughly $100,000 behind Harley Rouda's fundraising number."

But the Cook Report's David Wasserman, who analyzes and handicaps U.S. House races, singled out a completely different Democratic challenger to Rohrabacher. "Democrats in D.C. are thrilled with Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell and cancer researcher who founded a biotech company that was sold for $126 million," Wasserman wrote on Oct. 13, adding, "Keirstead is confident he can get past real-estate businessman Harley Rouda in the primary and peel off Rohrabacher's corporate support."

The assessment does come with a warning about Keirstead: "His political skills are still unproven, to say the least. Rohrabacher allies insist voters aren't focused on Russia and appreciate his 'independent streak,' but Democrats can also make the case that 30 years in Congress is too long. This is one of Democrats' best takeover opportunities in California."

Do you know what is tougher than fighting Democrats Rouda, Keirstead, Michael Kotick, Laura Oatman, Boyd Roberts, Omar Siddiqui and Tony Zarkades; Republicans Stelian Onufrei and Paul Martin; Libertarian Brandon Reiser; and Independent Kevin Kensinger—all of whom are seeking Rohrabacher's seat? Fighting off one's own Republican House leadership, which recently curtailed the Volga River Surfin' Congressman's activities as chairman of the Europe subcommittee to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. His yellow toenails are being held to the fire when it comes to holding hearings and traveling, with his request to have taxpayers foot the bill for his highly controversial trip to London to meet with exiled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange already being nixed.

Got Dana Watch fodder? Email mcoker@ocweekly.com.

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