Predictions of a Democratic washout are premature, an increasingly confident group of House Republican incumbents say. 

IRVINE, Calif. — Democrats boasted as recently as a few months ago that GOP Rep. Mimi Walters was as good as gone.

Hillary Clinton carried her educated Orange County district comfortably in 2016. Then Walters backed some of the most polarizing planks of President Donald Trump’s agenda: repealing Obamacare and a tax cut bill that scrapped popular deductions used by her constituents.

 Yet six months before Election Day, the 55-year-old former investment banker and other members of California’s endangered GOP congressional delegation are upbeat about surviving the much-predicted Democratic wave. A voter referendum on the November ballot to repeal a state gasoline tax — for which Walters helped raise millions of dollars — has invigorated the conservative base, they say.

And Democrats have their own issues, chiefly a crush of candidates in several primary races that threatens to split progressive votes. At worst, that could keep a Democrat off the ballot under the state’s “jungle” primary system, in which the top two candidates from either party advance to the general election. At best, it’s likely to produce a more liberal general election candidate for Democrats in the center-right districts.

“The only reason I’m a target is because Hillary Clinton won my district,” said Walters, who defeated her Democratic opponent by 17 points last cycle. “I got 37,000 more votes than President Trump did. That means that the people in the 45th District identify with the policies that I support and support me because I’m in line with what they believe in.”

Walters’ confidence illustrates California Republicans’ renewed hope that they’ll hold the line this fall in districts Democrats must flip if they want to seize the majority. Republican leaders have made the state a top priority, with the National Republican Congressional Committee and GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund opening offices statewide and already deep into field work.

 

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