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Why Democrats think they could flip a reliably red district in California

Orange County, California is ground zero for Democrats hoping to pick up the Republican seats they need to control the House of Representatives. All four of the county’s Republican House members represent districts where Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Yamiche Alcindor reports on one of those districts where a 30-year GOP incumbent is heading into election day in a virtual tie.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    When American voters to the polls in two weeks, Democrats are aiming to win at least 23 congressional seats now held by Republicans in order to regain control of the House of Representatives.

    Yamiche Alcindor reports on what's making one Southern California district so competitive.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Repairing surfboards and hoping for a big blue wave. At her shop in Southern California, Molly Logan is a fired-up new Democrat with a deeply personal motivation.

  • Molly Logan:

    Well, I dated a man that was similar to Trump. He was very wealthy. He was a big bully. It was his highway or the byway. So, Trump reminds me of that type of person, mean, angry, do what he wants with women. And he says it's OK to grab women without their permission. And that's just incredibly offensive to me.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    She grew up with staunchly conservative parents and two decades ago moved to Orange County.

    For most of her life, she was one of 400,000 independent voters in this longtime Republican stronghold. Then came President Trump's surprise win.

  • Molly Logan:

    I was just appalled at what happened. I couldn't believe a man like Trump was elected.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    She's now working out her representative in the 48th District, Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

    She's knocked on hundreds of doors to help Democrat Harley Rouda beat the 30-year incumbent.

  • Molly Logan:

    I'm Molly. I'm canvassing for Harley Rouda for Congress.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Polls show the race is a virtual tie.

  • Molly Logan:

    This is a neck-and-neck race. And I have no idea how it is going to go. And I'm going to keep working my hardest to make sure Harley wins.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Ronald Reagan once described Orange County as the place good Republicans go to die. But now all four of the Republican House members in this county represent districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. That makes this place ground zero for Democrats trying to win control of Congress.

    Orange County has seen a rising number of Asian residents, but demographics alone don't explain the changing politics, according to Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

  • Amy Walter:

    What is helping a Democrat in this kind of year is the fact that so many suburban, white, college-educated women really do not like Donald Trump.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The GOP still has nearly 40,000 more registered voters than Democrats. That means Rouda will likely need to win over some moderate and disaffected Republican.

  • Harley Rouda:

    It's great to see the huge blue wave here right now. Thanks for coming out.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Rouda himself is a former Republican-turned-Democrat. And he thinks voters turned off by President Trump will back him.

  • Harley Rouda:

    Whether he's mocking journalist or women who have been sexually harassed, it's wrong. So it's certainly causing many people to rethink their support for Republicans.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But Rohrabacher and his supporters are more determined than ever.

  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.:

    Harley doesn't represent any of the interests of these people. No, my people know me. And despite the fact that my opponent is outspending me two or three to one, my people know who I am. They know I'm on their side.

  • Woman:

    Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is doing two to three meet-and-greets a week.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Inside this Republican women's group, volunteers like retiree Pamela Hoffman are mailing out hundreds of invitations to small meetings with Rohrabacher.

  • Woman:

    He is a Christian and he is a conservative. And he has the same principles as Ronald Reagan.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    She supports President Trump and is feeling confident after the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • Woman:

    I think it's going to help Republicans.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Jennifer Sterling is a small business owner who believes Rohrabacher understands residents' struggles.

  • Woman:

    He has his hand on the pulse. He knows we're paying huge property tax, huge — 50, 60 cents on every gallon — gas — of gas we buy.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Others, like Bethany Webb, see things very differently. Last weekend, she rode her Harley-Davidson to a Harley Rouda rally.

    Bethany's activism is also personal. In 2011, her sister was killed and her mother injured in a mass shooting in Orange County.

  • Bethany Webb:

    For eight hours, you're hoping she's hiding, she's really scared, somehow she made it out, because people made it out.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    She said Rohrabacher's ties to the gun lobby mean he has to go.

  • Bethany Webb:

    He takes money from the NRA. And I find — I think the NRA has so much clout in our politics.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    She is one dozens who has protested outside Rohrabacher's office every Tuesday since President Trump's inauguration.

    One of her chief concerns is Rohrabacher's ties to Russia.

  • Bethany Webb:

    He supports Russia. He doesn't believe Russia interfered in our elections. These are things that — I'm a proud American — make me mad.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Some have dubbed Rohrabacher Vladimir Putin's favorite congressman because of his public support for the Russian leader.

    As part of a probe into Russia's election meddling, special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into a meeting between Rohrabacher and then Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn.

  • Harley Rouda:

    Vladimir Putin has been called a murderer and a thug.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Rouda seized on the topic in early campaign ads.

  • Harley Rouda:

    America, let's show more Rohrabacher and Trump it's time for a leader who represents us, not Russia.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Rohrabacher strongly defended himself and his position as chair of a House subcommittee that oversees investigations into foreign relations.

  • Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.:

    All these things that have been portrayed as being sinister because I met with this Russian or that Russian, it's my job, as chairman, to meet with all the people that I can to get a diverse opinion of what's going on and what we should have — what our relations should be with Russia.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Still, backlash over Russia is only one of our Rohrabacher's challenges.

  • Amy Walter:

    Rohrabacher's problems are twofold. The first is, he's been in Washington for a very long time, at a time when Washington is toxic.

    And the second is President Trump's deep unfavorability in Orange County.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    As Democrats focus on voter turnout in November, Molly, like others, is already thinking beyond the midterms.

    What happens after this election? Even if either Harley wins or maybe if he loses, what do you think is going to happen with you?

  • Molly Logan:

    I know I have the 2020 election to look forward to. I do not plan on quitting anymore. Regardless of who is in power, or who is president, who has control of the House, I'm still going to volunteer politically.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But, for now, she's waiting to see if, this year, the House and Orange County turn blue.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor in Huntington Beach, California.

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