Months ago, without saying it publicly, Democrats gave up hopes of regaining control of the House of Representatives and began concentrating resources on saving their command of the U.S. Senate.
That shift of emphasis, coupled with the natural dynamics of nonpresidential elections and the prospect of a very low-turnout November election, has raised Republicans hopes of recouping their 2012 congressional losses in California.
As many as eight Democratic members, especially four first elected in 2012, could be at risk this year.
This years campaigns began with what appeared to be a certain Democratic gain in San Bernardino Countys 31st Congressional District.
Two years ago, thanks to multiple Democrats on the top-two ballot, two Republicans made it to the November runoff despite lopsided Democratic registration.
The GOP winner, Gary Miller, didnt even bother to run for re-election this year; nevertheless, history almost repeated itself when one Republican finished first in last weeks primary and another came within a whisker of finishing second.
Democrat Pete Aguilar apparently eked out second place and is now favored to win the seat.
Beyond the 31st CD, however, things look a bit dicey for Democrats, in part because their incumbents and candidates fared poorly in the low-turnout primary.
Based on voting history and last weeks outcomes, the authoritative Cooks Political Report sees eight Democratic members at risk in California, with the most endangered being first-termers Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Julia Brownley of Thousand Oaks and Scott Peters of San Diego.
All three face well-known, well-financed and moderate Republican challengers former Rep. Doug Ose, Assemblyman Jeff Gorell and former City Councilman Carl DeMaio in districts with conservative, even Republican voting histories.
Cooks sees another first-termer, Palm Springs Raul Ruiz, as only slightly less vulnerable vis-a-vis GOP Assemblyman Brian Nestande, another well-known moderate.
Meanwhile, just two Republican incumbents, Turlocks Jeff Denham and Hanfords David Valadao, have even a theoretical vulnerability due to voter registration, but both clobbered Democratic opponents in the primary and neither looks truly endangered.
Democrats contend that last weeks primary, with a record-low voter turnout, is not indicative of what will happen in November.
Turnout in the fall will be higher but lower than in the 2012 presidential election and perhaps, in relative terms, as low as the primary, lacking burning statewide contests or ballot measures to lure voters.
A reasonable guess would be that Democrats lose a seat or two in the state this year but most importantly dont make the big California gains theyd need to retake the House.
Call The Bees Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/walters. Follow him on Twitter @WaltersBee.