Below is a copy of a chat from Nate Silver's fivethirtyeight where they discuss CA 45th (Mimi's district) as a Bellwether for the country. I agree for the most part, but citing the 2016 election as a comparison is not legitimate. Her opponent in 2016 was unknown, unfunded and unqualified. It's very different this time.
Which U.S. House Race Is The Best 2018 Bellwether?
Welcome to FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
micah (Micah Cohen, politics editor): Greetings, friends. It’s a snow-day politics chat! This week, we’re pilfering a great idea from RealClearPolitics elections analyst Sean Trende
We’ll each offer a district one by one and then discuss why we think it’s likely to capture the national mood in 2018.
I drew names out of a hat. Clare, you’re first.
clare.malone (Clare Malone, senior political writer): I choose California’s 45th Congressional District.
It’s held by Republican Mimi Walters, but Hillary Clinton won it by 5 percentage points in 2016. It’s in the general Los Angeles area, and it has the suburban voter types who I think are the sort that we’ve seen be more persuadable to the Democratic side in the special elections we’ve had since President Trump’s election. I’m interested in that particular group of voters this year and think the California 45th would give me a decent handle on them if it were the only race I were allowed to know the result of.
The midterms could be a fascinating time to see if it’s a trend — college-educated voters moving more to the left on the political spectrum and finding a more permanent home with Democrats, especially after a tumultuous couple years of President Trump.
micah: To be clear, these suburban voters moved toward Democrats in 2016, and seem to have stayed there in the special elections, but haven’t moved more toward Democrats since 2016.
nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, FiveThirtyEight contributor): Well, in Pennsylvania 18, Conor Lamb outperformed Clinton in Allegheny County — the most suburban part of that district — by 19 points. Of course, he outperformed Clinton everywhere, but it shows that Democrats can do better among suburban voters than Clinton did.
micah: And yeah, college-educated voters could be pivotal in 2018 …
nrakich: Yeah, they are going to turn out.
I agree with Clare that California 45 is an ideal test case for them.
perry (Perry Bacon Jr., senior writer): So Walters won by 17 percentage points in 2016, though. It would take a big swing for Democrats to win it.
clare.malone: The Democratic candidates who are opposing Walters, or running in the primary, will get a fair amount of attention. You’ve got Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris endorsing Katie Porter. I think especially because it’s in California, a Democratic stronghold, you’re going to see a big turnout effort and a lot of organizing as the year goes on. (The primary hasn’t happened yet, by the by, and there are other candidates.)
I think that gap will narrow, Perry, is my general point.
nrakich: And Republicans are in danger of getting shut out of the general election in both the gubernatorial and Senate races in California, thanks to the top-two primary system. California could have two Democrats facing off in the general election in statewide races.
Without a Republican at the top of the ticket to drive GOP turnout, House Republicans like Walters could be in real trouble.
micah: Yeah, the GOP seems to have overperformed there in 2016? California 45 has a FiveThirtyEight partisan lean of just 1 or 2 percentage points in the GOP’s favor.
clare.malone: I guess this is also a good time to point out a piece from Harry. He wrote about how Democrats focusing on Republican-held seats in a few very blue states could swing the House for them. It’s another reason I’m more confident about this being a close one.
nrakich: Well, Walters seems like a strong incumbent. But I think it’s also going to be valuable to know how strong incumbents do in 2018. Will they get swept away in a broadly anti-Republican wave, or will voters still consider the merits of individual candidates?
That’s why I think California 45 is a better pick than California 49, for instance.
perry: Where Darrell Issa is retiring.
micah: Are we getting competitive races in both, you think?