The main headline and subject of the large photo under it explain everything about the state of the 48th Congressional District race.
“Panic Time” is the banner over the Feb. 5 Politico story. Below that is a closeup of the 48th’s 30-year incumbent, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Putin’s Tree Swing), with his hands spread wide as if to illustrate the growing gap between the money raised by his Democratic opponents and that of his re-election campaign. Politico’s Elena Schneider writes:
Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who’s cruised to re-election since the late 1980s, is facing two well-funded Democrats. Harley Rouda, a businessman, and Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell researcher, topped Rohrabacher in fundraising last quarter, while Rouda now holds a cash-on-hand advantage over the congressman. Rohrabacher’s traditionally Republican seat in Orange County narrowly backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.
It marked the second straight quarter that Democratic challengers raised more than the 15-termer out of Huntington Beach. According to Federal Election Commission reports, for the fourth quarter of 2017:
• Rohrabacher raised $271,969 and ended the year with $713,144 in cash on hand.
• Rouda raised $626,254, ending the year with $833,687 in the bank.
• Keirstead raised $402,140 to wind up with $490,436.
• Omar Siddiqui raised $254,194 to get to $540,251.
Schneider reveals why the GOP is freaked out about the fundraising advances made on incumbents such as Rohrabacher:
Republican strategists stressed that falling behind in cash on hand—the amount sitting in a member’s bank account—is a serious problem because “the only thing that matters is cash on hand, and the Republican incumbent members who have Democratic challengers with a cash-on-hand advantage need to work harder and raise more money,” said Corry Bliss, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the flagship outside group tasked with maintaining the GOP’s majority in the House.
That’s particularly telling when it comes to entrenched politicians such as Rohrabacher, who is likely out of practice when it comes to pounding the phones for donations.
This being politics, there are caveats. Rouda’s fourth-quarter haul included a $500,000 personal loan he made to his campaign, following up on a $175,000 loan the previous quarter. Also during Q4, Siddiqui loaned himself $200,000, pushing the total amount of personal money in his campaign war chest up to $458,497. Keirstead chipped in a $165,000 loan over the same period, while a fourth Democrat, Michael Kotick, gave himself $55,000 and loaned himself $60,000.
A big unknown is how much these Democrats will spend picking one another off rather than Rohrabacher, whose party is banking on benefits from the Trump tax bill being popular with voters by Election Day.
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Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.