They’re sending in the cavalry for a trio of California Congressional Democrats in tough re-election battles: the President of the United States. But the campaigner-in-chief isn’t the current occupant of the White House.
President Obama’s approval ratings stink – even in the very blue state of California. According to the latest Field Poll, 43% of California voters give thumbs down to the President’s job performance, the lowest marks of his presidency. Worse news: the steepest decline was among his core supporters. So Congressional candidates in tough races are hesitant about standing alongside him for the TV cameras.
Enter Bill Clinton.
The former President will be the headliner Wednesday at Oxnard College during a get-out-the-vote rally for a pair of freshman Congressional incumbents - Julia Brownley of Ventura and Raul Ruiz of Palm Springs – and for candidate Pete Aguilar, who is trying to win an open seat in San Bernardino.
Brownley won two years ago by fewer than 10,000 votes. Her challenger is Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell. The district is split almost evenly between Democrats, Republicans, and voters who decline to pick a party. Brownley has attracted big money from the national Democratic party; Gorell's campaign was boosted by independent expenditures by the American Future Fund, the political action committee of the Koch brothers. Both the non-partisan Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics label the Brownley/Gorell race a toss-up.
Ruiz beat a GOP incumbent by just over 7,000 votes in 2012 in a district that's also split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. He's facing Republican challenger Brian Nestande. Both the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics list the race as leaning Democratic.
The 31st Congressional race is for an open seat. Incumbent Republican Gary Miller won two years ago in a redrawn district that has slightly more Democratic voters. Because of California's top two rule, a pair of Republicans appeared on the 2012 ballot. Democrats see the district as a top pickup. Pete Aguilar, mayor of Redlands, is facing Paul Chabot, a naval reserve officer.
All three races are in the big money file: Ruiz has raised $3 million, Brownley $2.8 million. Their challengers Nestande and Gorell have both raised more than a million dollars each. So has Aguilar. Chabot is further behind in the money column, raising about $400,000. But the races have also attracted outside dollars. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC have spent on behalf of Aguilar and Brownley. The Koch brothers have bought TV ads for Gorell. The National Rifle Association has sent out postcards for Chabot.
Vice President Joe Biden is also coming to southern California this weekend for a Saturday get-out-the-vote rally in the Inland Empire.
And no need to shed tears for Obama. His star power in California is still in great demand at high ticket fundraisers. Last month, he headlined at four fundraisers where tickets cost tens of thousands of dollars.