Clinton Visit a Chance to Energize Democratic Voters

Former president, called 'probably the most popular leader in the Democratic party right now,' will lead a UCI rally supporting State Sen. Alan Lowenthal and 4 other congressional candidates.

One of the biggest weapons in the Democratic Party’s arsenal is pointed at Southern California this week, and will involve Long Beach's hottest congressional race.

Former President Bill Clinton will lead a rally Tuesday at UC Irvine to endorse five congressional candidates and encourage voters to turn out on Nov. 6. As with recent visits from President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, the Clinton appearance also reflects Southern California's deep donor pockets.

It also shows how competitive local congressional races are this year, according to political experts. National Republican and Democratic parties, as well as PACs, are spending in many of the state's House races.

Clinton’s appearance is “all about fundraising and down-ballot races to get out the vote for Democrats,” said Lori Han, a political science professor at Chapman University in the City of Orange who specializes in American government.

"There's an outside chance Democrats could take the House," she said. "It comes down to a handful of seats."

The national Democratic Party decided on the five candidates Clinton will endorse by calculating which have the best odds of defeating their Republican opponents, said Nick Anas, executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County.

Among those seats, is the new 47th Congressional District for U.S. House of Representatives. The district encompasses Long Beach, Rossmoor, Los Alamitos and other West Orange County cities.

On Tuesday, Clinton will back state Sen. Alan Lowenthal against Long Beach City Councilman Gary DeLong, his Republican competitor, for the 47th district.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D- Ventura, San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters, Dr. Raul Ruiz of Palm Springs and Mark Takano of Riverside will also be receiving the former president’s endorsement. In addition to helping California Democrats take back the House, fundraising is unquestionably on Clinton’s agenda for his Orange County stop, Han added.

Clinton's been traveling throughout the country campaigning for Obama, most recently in swing states such as Ohio and Wisconsin.

However, his visit to Orange County during the final stretch of the election is not unexpected, said Mike Moodian, assistant professor of social science at Brandman University.

“It’s really standard fare in presidential politics,” he said.

In 2010, Clinton came to Orange County to lend his starpower to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez as she battled challenger Van Tran in her bid for re-election, he said. 

Clinton made a stop at UC Davis earlier this month to endorse four congressional candidates. His speech Tuesday in Orange County will be similar to that he gave in Northern California, said Tenoch Flores, communications director with the California Democratic Party.

The former president’s broad-based appeal is why Obama has been spending time campaigning in tandem with Clinton, Moodian said.

Clinton is “probably the most popular leader in the Democratic party right now,” he said.

However, taking back the House would be a reach for Democrats this year, added Moodian.

Still, Clinton's appearance could narrow the races, Han said.

"Bill Clinton is still what we could call a rockstar within the Democratic party, especially as a former president," Han said. "He's very skilled politically."

"He has a way of talking directly to people in a way that most candidates don't," Han said. "If you can generate that kind of excitement at the congressional races...some of them could be close.”

Panglonymous October 23, 2012 at 09:39 PM


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