- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 20, 2010

LOS ANGELES | The president is 0 for 3 in his designated at-bats. He appeared for statewide Democratic candidates in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts last year, and all three lost. But the California events, which the Democratic National Committee expects to raise as much as $3.5 million, reflect a ratcheted-up White House effort as Democrats across the country find themselves vulnerable ahead of November’s midterm elections.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do. Our work is not yet done. And because some of the things that we did were not popular, we’re going to have a tough political fight coming up,” Mr. Obama said at the first fundraising reception Monday. “Barbara is going to have a tough race.”

For her part, Mrs. Boxer urged her supporters# “to go toe-to-toe” with tea partiers, and said her potential opponents in November’s elections have “been beating up on me.”

At another fundraiser for Mrs. Boxer on Monday, the president was interrupted by gay rights protesters demanding he act to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits gay troops from serving openly in the military.

“What about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell?’” shouted one protester, part of an effort organized by GetEQUAL, a new lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group. Mr. Obama yelled back, “We are going to do that.”

Mrs. Boxer, who crushed her Republican challenger in 2004 with a 58 percent to 38 percent margin, is emblematic of embattled Democrats across the country this year as many as 10 seats held by Democrats are in play.

#“Barbara Boxer’s polling numbers are not good,” said pollster John Zogby. “She is consistently polling in the mid-40s against potential Republican opponents and generally a few points down against each.

“For someone so well-known, the fact that she is well under 50 in two-person races is troublesome. Also problematic for her is that there is very little room for her to grow. She is known and polarizing,” Mr. Zogby said.

The latest poll by Rasmussen Reports puts Mrs. Boxer’s lead within the margin of error at just four percentage points, with the three-term incumbent leading businesswoman and top Republican candidate Carly Fiorina.

#“Boxer is in more trouble than at any point in her career,” pollster Scott Rasmussen said Monday.

Mrs. Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, mocked Mr. Obama’s visit to California.

“The president is out here today because Barbara Boxer is vulnerable, and the Democratic establishment is working overtime to prop her up in a way that they have never done before,” she said in a conference call with reporters.

“We are witnessing a rescue mission in action,” Mrs. Fiorina said. “I don’t think the people of California are in any mood to extend Barbara Boxer’s contract to work for them in Washington to 34 years, when her first 28 have been a total failure.” Mrs. Boxer served five terms in the House before her election to the Senate in 1992.

Mrs. Boxer’s campaign acknowledges that the senator faces the toughest fight of her career, be it against any one of three potential GOP challengers, who square off on June 8. Mrs. Fiorina and former Rep. Tom Campbell are running about even in the polls with the incumbent, with California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore trailing.

#But as the gay rights protests showed, Democrats also are feeling pressure from the left. In addition to the disruption inside the fundraiser, gay rights activists surrounded the California Science Center demanding that Mr. Obama do more to push for the repeal of the military’s policy on gay service members. Though he included the call for elimination in his State of the Union speech in January, protesters say he has not gone far enough to ensure the ban on acknowledged gays in the military is eliminated this year.

#However, it is Mrs. Boxer’s inside-the-Beltway status and her support of the unpopular health care reform bill passed by Congress that is weighing down the 69-year-old liberal. Her approval numbers have plummeted as all three Republicans vying for the seat have pounded her as a far-left Washington insider who has presided over a broad expansion of government.

What’s more, the sour economy California has an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent and a mortgage crisis that has hit particularly hard has hurt her re-election prospects. A Field Poll found 51 percent of California voters had a negative view of the senator, while 38 percent approved.

In California, Mr. Obama may be able to help. His approval rating stood at 52 percent in a Field Poll last month. Also, the health care reform bill is more popular in the liberal-leaning state than just about anywhere else in the nation.

“We passed health care reform, and we should be proud of it, proud of it,” Mrs. Boxer told supporters at the Democratic state party convention. On Saturday, she said voters will have a clear choice in November. “The question here is who is on the side of the people of California.”

The Los Angeles fundraisers mark Mr. Obama’s second night of campaigning in the past week. On Thursday, he spoke at two DNC events that reportedly hauled in $2.5 million for the party.

Mr. Obama has come to the rescue of other embattled incumbent senators. In recent months, he has stumped for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee derided Mr. Obama and Mrs. Boxer for attending a “lavish, private Hollywood fundraiser” amid record unemployment of 12.6 percent throughout the state.

Mr. Zogby said Mrs. Boxer’s fate is still far from decided and noted that she has won three previous elections.

“No one needs to teach Boxer how to campaign or fight rally her base. Even with a moderate Republican opponent like Carly Fiorina or Tom Campbell, this race will get ugly because California is in an ugly mood and an even uglier moment than the nation as a whole,” he said.

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