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California 50 and Control of the House

The number to look for in this race is 45%. Can the Democrat Francine Busby get over 45% of the vote in today's runoff against Republican Brian Bilbray?

This race to fill the seat of the disgraced Randy "Duke" Cunningham has been on the radar of the national press for some time as a potential harbinger of what the country may see this November. The only problem is that the first vote in April where Busby managed only 43.7% didn't really confirm the media hyperventilating that Republicans are heading for a disaster in the Congressional midterms. Of course, that could all change today if Busby is able to pull off the upset and squeeze out a victory.

Working in Busby's favor is the Democratic primary for governor, a neck and neck race between Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, which could serve to boost Democratic turnout in the district. SurveyUSA's final pre-special election poll in April showed Busby with 47% (she won 43.7%) and Bilbray with 13% (he won 15.3%). Their final poll for today's vote gives Bilbray the edge 47% - 45%. This poll was taken before Busby was caught telling a predominantly Hispanic audience that "you don't need papers to vote." It is hard to tell just how much of an effect this will have on the outcome, but it is safe to say it is probably not a positive for Busby's chance of pulling off the upset.

In 2000, Gore and Nader won 46% of the vote (43% and 3%) and in 2004, with Nader off the ballot, Kerry managed to get 44% of the vote. In the special election this April Busby and the other lone Democrat won 45.1% of the total vote. These past results for the Democrats all seem to be topping out in the 45% area.

If there really is a Democratic surge building this year you would expect to see it in the final results in today's election. The inability of Busby to break out above that 45% area would be an indication that perhaps much of the media hype about the Democrats taking over Congress is just that, hype. Democrats may try to spin a sub-45% showing by Busby as not a big deal because of the strong Republicans bias of the district or a last minute gaffe, but the reality is this is exactly the type of race Democrats are going to have win at around a 75% clip if they hope to net the 15 seats they need to take over the House.

On the other hand, if Busby does win today, given the amount of money the RNC has thrown into this race (5 million), it would have to be viewed as a major warning sign that a Democratic takeover in the House is much more than just hype and in fact may be a real likelihood.

Let's see what the voters say.