Debra J. Saunders

But the 11th District tilts further right; Democrats and Republicans are evenly split, with 39 percent of the vote each. Obama carried the 11th District with 54 percent of the vote in 2008, but Hoffenblum believes, "Barack Obama would not carry that district this year."

So Harmer is working overtime to link McNerney to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "We would have the same result if we'd just give Nancy Pelosi a proxy vote," he said.

Others disagree. Said Hoffenblum, McNerney's "no Pelosi clone -- and if he should survive this, that should be the reason." And: McNerney "really works his district. He's not a lefty -- and has strong Republican support" at home.

On the other hand, McNerney had a $15 million asparagus earmark inserted in the pork-laden 2008 farm bill. He voted for the Bush TARP program, for the Obama stimulus packages and for ObamaCare. It seems more than fair to label McNerney as an entrenched member of the Beltway's spending class.

For his part, Harmer has taken the no-earmark pledge. He advocates a commission to cut federal spending models after the military's Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Granted, it's easy for any Republican to support a commission to cut federal spending. But Harmer seems to understand that if Republicans take control of Congress, then fail to curb Washington's spending excesses, the GOP will lose control "in two or four years."

Voters in the 11th District are angry - but, Harmer told me, that doesn't mean "they like Republicans."

Debra J. Saunders

TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Debra Saunders' column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.