Blue Dog Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) is the kind of candidate that Democrats would probably not have to worry about in ordinary circumstances, but this year she's beating back a serious challenge from Republican Assemblyman Van Tran.
California's 47th district in Orange County leans slightly Democratic and Sanchez has some advantages over other vulnerable Blue Dogs, many of whom are less experienced (she was elected in 1996) and facing more Republican-leaning voters. But she's made the race both more high-profile and more difficult for herself with insensitive comments on her opponent's Vietnamese-American background. In an interview with Univision last month, she said that "the Vietnamese and the Republicans are [trying]—with an intensity—to take this seat, this seat with which we've done so much for our community" and called Tran "very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic," drawing national attention and condemnation. Sanchez told reporters she was referring only to Vietnamese supporters of her opponent, not the broader Vietnamese community, and offered an apology after Tran condemned the remarks.
Since then she's pushed back at Tran with a mailer showing him asleep at his state assembly desk, accusing him of slacking off during California's state budget crisis. They debate this week and the change in conversation might be doing her good as our Election Oracle prediction model shows her moving from a 6:4 favorite to a 7:3 one to win her race, largely based on increasingly positive online buzz.
Benjamin Sarlin is the Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast and edits the site's politics blog, Beltway Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.