Surveying the crowd of Democratic congressional candidates hoping to unseat Orange County’s four GOP incumbents – already 16 – county Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker can hardly contain his glee.
“All the Republicans are unified behind one candidate in each of these races and the Democrats have divided loyalties to candidates who have no name ID,” Whitaker said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”
But other political experts say the unusually large size of the Democrats’ candidate pool comes with pros as well as cons. In all, there are six targeted Southern California GOP House seats, including districts that extend into Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, with a total of 28 Democratic challengers to date. In some scenarios, this pack of hopefuls could bolster the general election odds for the Democrats who emerge from the primary contest.
“Conventional wisdom would probably be that Democrats would be better rallying behind a single candidate,” said Darry Sragow, a longtime Democratic strategist and an editor at the Target Book, which handicaps races. “If it gets nasty and divisive between the so-called moderates and liberals in the primary, the winner could be damaged goods for the general election.
“But there’s another theory that if you have lots of Democrats and one Republican (in the primary), the Democrats will get a lot of attention and the Republican ends up on the back burner. It could create a lot of (Democratic) enthusiasm heading into the general election.”
Raphael Sonenshein, a longtime Cal State Fullerton political scientist who now heads Cal State Los Angeles’ Brown Institute for Public Affairs, agreed. He added that a hotly contested June primary could help expose these untried and unknown candidates’ weaknesses, weeding out those with politically fatal shortcomings before a partisan head-to-head showdown in November next year.
The throng will require Democrats to spend more campaigning in the primary, but…