Republican congressional hopeful Matt Jacobs is within striking distance of his incumbent Democratic opponent in a deep-blue Los Angeles district, a revelation that could force the Democratic Party to spend in a race they expected to win handily.
Jacobs, a former federal prosecutor, trails five-term congresswoman Julia Brownley (D., Calif.) by just 4.8 points in California's 26th Congressional District, a September OnMessage poll obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon shows. While President Joe Biden won that district by a whopping 25 points two years ago, independent voters have since soured on Democrats as Americans face record-high inflation. Jacobs, for example, holds a 10-point lead over Brownley with independents, according to the poll. The survey also found that Brownley's unfavorable rating has climbed 5 points since March.
Those findings will likely alarm House Democrats, who expected to cruise to victory in the liberal district, which includes portions of Los Angeles County. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not include Brownley on its list of vulnerable members, and election handicapper Cook Political Report does not consider Brownley's district to be competitive. But OnMessage's September poll shows otherwise, meaning Democrats could be forced to commit resources to defend Brownley as their partisan counterparts go on offense. The National Republican Congressional Committee added Brownley to its target list in March and is working to flip four other California seats.
Republicans have reason to believe they can win in once-longshot Golden State districts. According to a March Public Policy Institute of California poll, just 46 percent of likely California voters approve of Biden, compared with 51 percent who disapprove. Those numbers marked a 19-point skid in just one year—in a 2021 poll from the same group, Biden enjoyed the support of 65 percent of likely California voters. Four California Republicans, meanwhile, flipped blue seats to red in 2020, even as Biden won the state by 29 points.
"Brownley's low name ID, the poor perception of local Democrats, and a tied generic ballot show that this race will continue to be competitive and can narrow in the final stretch," OnMessage's poll states. "As Jacobs is winning over independents, Brownley is struggling to consolidate younger voters and college-educated voters. This seat deserves attention as Election Day nears."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not return a request for comment.