Elections are fickle. Months and years of planning, fundraising, and strategizing can all be derailed by an ill-timed photo, a rainy day, or an oddly shaped ballot. And that's all the more true when few voters make their way to the polls, leaving candidates at the mercy of the most minor of nudges.
Such is the fate of California Democrat Ami Bera, a first-term House member locked a close race against former Republican Rep. Doug Ose. As Bera asks Democrats to turn out Tuesday, he's not getting much help from the top of the party's ticket, part of the reason why his fate is expected to hang in the hands of an exceptionally small electorate.
Without a presidential election, Bera's next tier down of available star power was California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown—but even Brown himself isn't putting much effort into that noncompetitive race: The incumbent waited to make his first campaign appearance until just eight days before Election Day.
And without help from the top of the ticket, Bera is hoping for help at the bottom. There's a race going on in the state Senate, and poll watchers are wondering whether that is Bera's best hope to turn out the base he needs.
Consider this: State Senate districts actually cover more people than current congressional races in California. And Bera's race overlaps with a particularly expensive campaign between two Democrats, state Assemblymen Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan, which has attracted $2.65 million in outside spending and is all about motivating core Democratic supporters.