Tran, a term-limited state representative, has earned the trust of fiscal conservatives in California. In addition, national Republicans have touted his potential and candidacy, welcoming a new ethnic face into the party. And while Sanchez has diligently reached out to the Vietnamese community, even dressing in traditional Vietnamese garb at local festivals, Tran's main line of attack against her seems to be that like her legislative record, she is more show than substance when it comes to issues that affect the Vietnamese community. Sanchez's latest unforced gaffe may prove Tran's point, at least among those in the Vietnamese community. Sanchez has said that she was merely referring to Vietnamese Republican activists, but the OC Weekly, which first broke the news of this video, disagrees with Sanchez's interpretation.
Republican polls, such as one commissioned by the American Action Network, have put Tran within the margin of error. And while some political insiders wondered whether Sanchez would overlook Tran and this race with her eye potentially on a future gubernatorial run, those doubts about whether Sanchez would take this race seriously seem to have been erased, as she had already gone negative against Tran even before her controversial Univision comment. Sanchez had by then released an ad attacking Tran and implying that he has pocketed tax-payer stipends to help finance his home in Sacramento.
Tran has also not been without controversy in recent years. In August of 2009, he arrived at the scene of an accident involving his protégé, councilman Andy Quach, and questions later arose about whether Tran was attempting to interfere in the police investigation of the accident. Details remain hazy, but if Sanchez starts hammering Tran on what may have happened that night, it could indicate that her internal polls show she's in trouble.
Bottom line: Sanchez has many advantages in this race. There are more registered Democrats in her district than Republicans. She has name recognition across all communities, particularly the Mexican-American one, but this community is fickle when it comes to turning out at the polls; plus, independent candidate Cecilia Iglesias may peel off some Hispanic voters. Sanchez also has a fundraising advantage. But in midterm elections, only the passionate turn out to vote. And Tran will hope to turn out two equally passionate voters this cycle: voters angry at incumbents and Vietnamese residents eager to elect one of their own to national office. If Tran pulls off the upset against Sanchez, it'll probably be a sign of a larger GOP tidal wave.