Scrambling to Soften Bilbray’s Win


By: Warner Todd Huston

The Nation Magazine is trying to soft sell the election in California’s 50th District of Republican Brian Bilbray who is now replacing disgraced Republican, Randy “Duke” Cunningham. And they aren’t the only one’s trying to blow off the importance to the Democratic Party’s immediate future at the polls that this election might portend.

“Busby lost to Republican Brian Bilbray in a special election last night by 49 to 45 percent, in (a) heavily Republican district(s).” (For Nation Op EdClick here)

But this claim of a “heavily Republican district” is not really the correct, up-to-date analysis of the district’s voting trends.

50th Dist. Polling Results over last week of the race (Click here) Show that the numbers did not move very much between Busby and Bilbray, but it does show one thing clearly. The district was competitive in that the candidates were never separated by more than 10 points most of the time.

With Bilbray only beating Busby out by some two or three percentage points in pre-voting day polling, this does not support the claim that it is a “heavily Republican District”.

Even Michael Barone (one of the best in the country at political analysis) reminds us how the 50th District has been moving towards a purple voting record as opposed to a strong red one.

“Since coastal California trended to the Democrats in the middle 1990s, the district has moved toward, but not yet into, the marginal category. It voted 55 percent to 44 percent for George W. Bush in 2004 and 54 percent to 43 percent for him in 2000.” (Click Here for Barone Article)

This shows that the district could have been competitive with a good candidate on the Democratic side. Especially since Cunningham, the man replaced in this election, was a disgraced Republican making it harder for Bilbray to convince a slowly centrist leaning electorate to vote for him, another Republican.

And the nation isn’t the only one. Here are a few more misreads of the district in the MSM:

“It was a strong showing by a Democrat in a district described by Congressional Quarterly just last year as a ‘steadily growing GOP stronghold.””(San Francisco Chronicle)

“His opponent, who campaigned against the alleged Republican culture of corruption, has insisted all along that regardless of the outcome, she has shown the nation that a Democrat can make a strong showing in what’s considered a “safe” Republican district. ” (CNSNews.com)

“… Tuesday in solidly-Republican San Diego, where Bilbray secured nearly 50 percent of the vote and Busby trailed at just over 45.”(Thehill.com)

“A Republican former congressman slipped to victory in a special election here Tuesday, staving off what would have been a highly embarrassing Democratic victory in a solidly Republican district.”(New York Times)

So much for the conventional wisdom all of which ignored the actual voting trends in the district since the 1990s.

But, any look at the actual totals that even Bilbray won with shows a much more evenly divided district than can be claimed with the sobriquet “strongly Republican”! With Bilbray at 49% and Busby at 47%, that hardly justifies the claim that the 50th district is “strongly Republican”.

In any case, it is obvious that the Dems are not making much headway with this mantra of the “GOP culture of corruption” if they cannot pick up a seat in a district that is trending toward centrist voting where the past Republican occupant of that seat was sent to jail for corruption!

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