High California Gas Prices Rattle Democrats Ahead of Midterms

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Ms. Steel said she opposed abortion rights except to protect the health of the mother and for instances of incest but did not answer directly when asked twice if she supported exceptions for rape. A spokesman, Lance Trover, later said she did support that exception.

The congresswoman missed the votes concerning the certification of the 2020 election because she said she had tested positive for the coronavirus; in the interview, she said she did not know how she would have voted. Ms. Steel also said she did not know if Mr. Biden won legitimately; Mr. Trover later noted that she has said that she believed he did and that she maintained that position.

Scott Baugh, a former chairman of the Orange County Republican Party and former Republican leader in the State Assembly, is considered the leading candidate to challenge Ms. Porter. In an interview that began in his S.U.V., which he said had cost $140 to fill up, he called Mr. Biden “our legitimate president.”

However, Mr. Baugh declined to say how he would have voted concerning the certification of the 2020 election, citing concerns about “irregularities.” Election officials have said there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race.

As Mr. Baugh made his way through a wealthy, marina-adjacent neighborhood, he appeared far more animated when sounding traditional Republican notes on fiscal restraint and the economy. The candidate insisted that amid inflation and high gas prices, local independent and Republican voters who opposed Mr. Trump had already returned to his party’s fold.

“They’re not happy with the direction of the country,” he said.

At a campaign rally for Ms. Porter near the ocean, Heather Dodd, 54, seemed acutely aware of those dynamics.

She said she also worried that Democrats were unenthusiastic, and she fretted over the effect on Tuesday’s turnout and in November. Voters were venting frustration at the president over global problems, like gas prices, which Mr. Biden can’t single-handedly control, she said.

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