Inside the GOP's California nightmare

It was one of several nasty midterm shocks for California Republicans: Internal polling described to POLITICO showed Knight and Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Mimi Walters — all of whom lost — narrowly leading their Democratic opponents at the end of the campaign. Not only did the GOP get crushed in California, the party also got taken by surprise by the intensity of the backlash in the nation’s largest state, where Republicans projected confidence nearly all year before watching Democrats flip a whopping six House districts — and possibly a seventh.

The nightmare results were the end result of a toxic brew of overconfidence and presidential unpopularity, as some Republicans failed to recognize and reckon with the unprecedented negative reaction to President Donald Trump in districts from Orange County to California’s agriculture-heavy Central Valley.

Republicans’ shock has only deepened weeks after Election Day, as absentee and provisional ballots boosted Democrat TJ Cox ahead of Rep. David Valadao, a moderate Central Valley Republican who had previously won at least 57 percent of the vote in good and bad years for the GOP, despite the fact that his party’s presidential candidates regularly lose his district by double digits.