GOP Launches Ad Campaign Hitting Porter on Impeachment

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The campaign arm for House Republicans is hitting Rep. Katie Porter, a freshman Democrat who flipped a seat in California, in a digital ad campaign targeting her decision to support the impeachment of President Trump.

The National Republican Congressional Committee began running the spots on Facebook Thursday morning. Against a backdrop of an unflattering photo of Porter, the ads simply call for people to sign a petition telling her not to impeach Trump and asking for their names and email addresses.

Porter was already a top GOP target for 2020, but her support for impeachment placed an even bigger bull’s-eye on her back. The NRCC immediately predicted that her decision, which she announced in a video Monday, would cost her the seat in Congress she won last year.

The lawmaker’s stance demonstrates that Porter “is willing to thumb her nose at her constituents, the majority of whom oppose impeachment,” the NRCC said in a press release, arguing in another that “Katie values the opinions of the socialist Democrats in Washington” more than those of district voters.

The GOP committee cited a Public Policy Institute of California poll, released in early June, showing that 49% of Californians say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, with 66% of Democrats favoring compared to 39% of independents and 9% of Republicans. 

Porter’s position is risky, GOP critics argue, because Republicans lead Democrats by 3% in voter registrations in the district she represents. There are already eight Republicans who plan to challenge her in 2020, including Mission Viejo Mayor Greg Raths, Laguna Hills City Councilman Don Sedgwick, Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Peggy Huang and prosecutor Ray Gennawey.

Porter announced her support for impeachment Monday by posting a video describing a gradual conversion, the result of weeks-long study, consultation with legal experts and deliberation.

“I’ve spent hours reading and analyzing the Constitution, articles by leading scholars and the 200-year history of our democracy and its system of checks and balances,” she said. “After weeks of study, deliberation and conversations with Orange County families, I’ve decided to support the investigation of the president.”

Her spokesman declined to comment on the NRCC ad campaign, saying Porter is letting the video speak for itself.

The congresswoman is one of seven Democrats who swept the party’s targeted California House races last fall, confirming Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the path to regaining the majority would run through the Golden State.

A consumer protection attorney who had now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a professor at Harvard Law School and considers her a mentor, Porter is the first Democrat to win the seat representing inland Orange County since its creation in 1983, ousting two-term GOP Rep. Mimi Walters by 4 percentage points.

The county, which is the birthplace of President Richard Nixon and was the home of John Wayne, has been trending purple  after many years as a conservative bastion. 

Despite the swing nature of the district, Porter has aligned herself with an energized group of young liberals clamoring for more influence in the party. She joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus and often appears at press conferences headlined by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

Even though she doesn’t command the headlines they have, Porter sits on the Financial Services Committee with Ocasio-Cortez and has aggressively questioned several top business executives. During a recent hearing, she pointedly asked Equifax’s chief executive whether he would disclose his Social Security number, birth date and address in public after the company’s lawyers argued in federal court that there was no injury caused by a 2017 data breach that disclosed personal information of 147 million people.

She also had a standout moment last month when she grilled Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on whether he knew what a common real-estate term, REO, stood for.

Carson jokingly interjected, “An Oreo?”

Porter then sharply replied, “Owned -- real-estate owned. That’s what happens when a property goes into foreclosure. We call it an R-E-O.”

During her 2018 campaign, Walters and other Republicans questioned whether Porter was too liberal for California’s 45th District. She responded by saying that she would listen to her constituents but will ultimately vote her conscience.

Still, during the final months of the campaign, Porter was accused of a dishonest flip-flop on her prior support for California’s latest gas-tax increase, saying in an ad, “I oppose higher gas taxes, and I won’t be afraid to take on leaders of both political parties.”

But four months earlier, at a well-attended public townhall event, Porter repeatedly disparaged the GOP-led campaign to repeal the gas tax, accusing her opponent of being “obsessed” with it and stating that “I support all the people who voted for” the increase.

Susan Crabtree is RealClearPolitics' White House/national political correspondent.

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