GOP embraces single-payer healthcare attack in California
© Greg Nash

Republicans are seizing on Democratic demands for a single-payer health system as an attack line in California, arguing that candidates backing the issue spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are out of step with their districts.

“My opponent wants socialized medicine and government-run healthcare,” Rep. Mimi Walters (Calif.), a GOP incumbent and top Democratic target, told The Hill. “The district does not support it.”

Walters represents one of seven GOP-held seats in California that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 that Democrats are seeking to take back. If Republicans lose those seats, it would greatly increase the chances that the GOP loses the House.

Republicans say that Democratic candidates might have done well in crowded primaries running on “Medicare for All” when they needed to move to the left. But they say that position will be a major drag in a general election decided by more centrist voters.

“The anger of the Democratic base against the president is pushing the party aggressively leftward,” said Michael Steel, a Republican strategist and former aide to Speaker John Boehner. “That’s going to leave them with a lot of candidates who aren’t a good fit for their districts.”

In the seven Clinton-won districts in California, at least five will have Democrats on the November ballot who support single-payer.

They include Josh Harder, who’s expected to challenge GOP Rep. Jeff Denham in the Central Valley; Katie Hill, who is running for Rep. Steve Knight’s seat in northern Los Angeles County, Katie Porter, who’s challenging Walters in her Orange County district; and Mike Levin, who’s running to succeed retiring Rep. Darrell Issa in San Diego County.

Most of those races are considered to be toss-ups by nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report, while Walters seat is rated lean Republican. Cook moved Issa’s open-seat race from toss-up to lean Democrat days after the California primaries.

Democrats also hope to defeat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who has held his Orange County district for 15 terms. As of Friday afternoon, stem cell researcher Hans Keirstead was up 129 votes over businessman Harley Rouda for the second spot on the November ballot. Both Democrats back Medicare for All.

Porter, who defeated a more moderate Democrat in the primary,…