Rep. Mike Honda’s 22-percentage-point lead over insurgent Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in Tuesday’s 17th Congressional District primary has both the party’s establishment and its liberal wing crowing with delight.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel issued a statement praising Honda, D-San Jose, on his “decisive win” and calling him “the ideal leader for the Bay Area” with “an unparalleled record of delivering results in education, innovation and helping to rebuild the middle class.”
Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal grassroots group Democracy for America, used sharper terms, calling Honda “the true grassroots progressive in the race, over the billionaire-backed, Republican-lite Ro Khanna.”
“With the registered Republicans now out of the race, Democracy for America members look forward to continuing to make clear that Mike Honda is the only progressive Democrat in this race — a job we expect to be made considerably easier as Republican-lite Ro Khanna inevitably begins making the same right-wing pitch to voters that he used to ‘win’ the support of fringe-right millionaires and billionaires,” Chamberlain said.
And the Progressive Change Campaign Committee counts Honda among victories in what it “is calling ‘Progressive Super Tuesday’ because ‘Elizabeth Warren wing’ Democrats across the country won their races against Corporate Democrats.”
As I wrote Tuesday night, Honda’s victory margin gives him some room to breathe as he heads for his November showdown with Khanna. They’re about equally matched in money, and Honda – who already has the name recognition that comes with being a seven-term incumbent – has not yet even started advertising on television.
But Khanna – who came out swinging Tuesday night by challenging Honda to swear off negative campaigning, shun independent expenditures and meet for five debates – says he has five months to play catch-up. His campaign issued a lengthy memo Wednesday from consultant Jeremy Bird – who was national field director of President Obama’s re-election camoaign – explaining why Khanna is “in a strong position” looking ahead to November.
The memo notes that Khanna has moved from 5 percent in the polls to his 27 percent showing on Tuesday, even with three other candidates in the field, while Honda dropped from 57 percent in his own poll to 49 percent Tuesday. “And any time an incumbent falls below 50% – especially one who started with as strong name ID as Honda – that suggests a highly vulnerable candidate,” Bird wrote.
November will offer a larger, more moderate electorate, the memo says.
“Honda’s best performing group (strong partisan Democrats) is already accounted for in the primary vote,” Bird wrote. “There is no more natural constituency for Rep. Honda to reach out to. Rep. Honda’s worst performing groups, independent Democrats, DTS and Republican voters, make up the vast majority of the up-for-grabs vote pool. He has to win votes from groups outside his core appeal. This will be a formidable challenge because his vote share over the primary shrunk, especially with these groups, while Ro Khanna’s grew.”