The Democrats’ losses came for a number of reasons, including forces particular to California and the complications of campaigning during a pandemic. But as much as anything, they reflected the potency of Republican attacks, some false or exaggerated, that Democrats were the party of socialism, defunding the police and abolishing private health insurance…

“Republicans hung around Democrats’ necks that we are all socialist or communist and we all wanted to defund the police,” said Harley Rouda, a Democrat from Orange County who was defeated by Michelle Steel, a Republican member of the Orange County board of supervisors. “In my opinion, we as a party did a less than adequate job in refuting that narrative. We won in 2018 and took the House back because of people like me — moderates — flipping radical Republican seats.”

Republicans said that attempts by Democrats to portray themselves as moderates were undercut by a shift of the party to the left and by the demonstrations.

“It was incredibly easy for us to draw contrasts,” said Jessica Millan Patterson, the leader of the California Republican Party. She said the protests “were happening all over. It looked like a war zone.”