Republicans made historic gains across the country in the midterm elections. But after dropping a succession of close races in California, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he is undertaking a district-by-district review through the House GOP’s campaign arm.
California Republicans came off election night leading in a number of tight races, but ultimately lost every one as officials tallied late-arriving ballots.
“California did not turn out the way I wanted it to turn out,” McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican, said in a recent interview with The Bee.
A co-founder of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns, McCarthy said among his questions is why overtime absentee and provisional ballots turned out so differently for the GOP than the earlier mail-in and Election Day votes. McCarthy and Republicans fielded some criticism for faltering in the races in the days and weeks after the Nov. 4 election.
“I am doing a full audit from the NRCC,” he said.
Federal election law walls off party leaders from NRCC operatives who decide, largely based on internal polling, where and how to fund races. Much of the party money in California went to help Republicans Doug Ose of Sacramento County and Carl DeMaio of San Diego in their unsuccessful bids to unseat freshmen Democratic Reps. Ami Bera and Scott Peters, respectively. In Fresno, Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno narrowly held off Republican Johnny Tacherra.
“One can presume that, had the (GOP) put even a small investment into this district, this race would be all done,” GOP blogger and former state party official Jon Fleischman wrote in a post-election analysis for Breitbart California.
McCarthy said he agreed that Tacherra could have taken out the incumbent with a little help from the party. “But I also think if you’re going to play in Costa’s (16th District), you have to come in late, fast and hard, which I always believed.”
“I gave money in that race. If you talk to (handicapper) Charlie Cook and others, I have been saying Costa was the sleeper race for the last four years.”
McCarthy, who visited 140 districts nationally ahead of the midterms, said he personally considered four of the nine close races in his home state as competitive. Despite the net loss of one seat, he said the party’s involvement here forced Democrats to cede ground in other areas.
“I believe California is more competitive than probably other places,” McCarthy said. “I also think that by playing in California, it helped us win other places across the country. Unfortunately, the Democrats spent a great deal. It’s not easy to win (here), but I am not giving up on California.”
Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.