California's high-stakes elections go down to wire

LOS ANGELES Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:19am EDT

Supporters listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak at Democratic campaign rally at University of Southern California in Los Angeles October 22, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Supporters listen to U.S. President Barack Obama speak at Democratic campaign rally at University of Southern California in Los Angeles October 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Related Topics

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It's no coincidence that President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton visited California university campuses during the final weeks of the 2010 midterm election.

With Obama still fairly popular in the Golden State despite the beating his approval rating has taken elsewhere, Democrats say turning out the young California voters who helped him win in 2008 election is essential to carrying the midterm U.S. Senate and governor's races.

"If everybody who fought for change in 2008 turns out this time, we will win this election," Obama told some 30,000 students and supporters during a rally for incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown at the University of Southern California.

There's a lot at stake in traditionally Democratic California: the race between Boxer and her Republican rival, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, is seen by party insiders as critical to holding onto their Senate majority.

Democrats also have a chance to reclaim the governor's seat being vacated by Arnold Schwarzenegger, although that means taking over a financially broken and politically gridlocked state.

And there are two ballot measures with far-reaching implications: a challenge to a global warming law intended to be a model for the world and a proposal to be the first U.S. state to legalize marijuana.

"It's not enough to have voted for a new president if you won't help him govern and stick behind the members of Congress who stood by him," Clinton said during an appearance at the University of California Los Angeles. "I'm pleading with you, go out and tell everyone who is not here tonight that any college student in the state of California that doesn't vote in this election is committing malpractice on your own future."

Polls show Brown, the state's attorney general and former governor, with a lead over his Republican rival, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. She has spent $140 million of her own money in the most expensive governor's race.

Boxer, a leading liberal in the Senate and champion of Obama's agenda, has a slight edge over Fiorina in their fight for the seat Boxer has held for three terms.


"It is crucial that they get out the first-time 2008 voters because they were a critical part of the coalition that elected Barack Obama, and other segments of that coalition don't appear to be as enthusiastic as they were in 2008," said USC political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, who attended both rallies.

Bebitch Jeffe said the students were fired up by Obama and Clinton's star power, but cautioned that Boxer and Brown should not count on that energy carrying over to the voting booth.

"The reality I saw at UCLA and USC was that the audience was there more to see Bill Clinton at UCLA, and more to see Barack Obama at USC, and that will not necessarily translate into getting out and voting for other candidates," she said.

Keira Rogers, an accounting major who attended the USC event, went even further, saying she had voted for Obama in 2008 but probably wouldn't again.

"I knew he wasn't that experienced but I thought he would do better than he has," Rogers said. "He's not living up to my expectations."

Democratic operatives hope a ballot measure that would legalize marijuana in California will lure young voters to the polls benefiting Brown and Boxer.

But Proposition 19, which would make California the first U.S. state to legalize possession and sale of marijuana, was trailing in the polls, despite supporters' claims that a tax on pot sales could help bail out the cash-strapped state.

Voters are also leaning against Proposition 23, which would suspend the state's landmark climate law until unemployment in the state, currently in the double digits, falls to 5.5 percent or less for four straight quarters.

The defeat of Prop 23 would be a boon to Democrats and Obama, who have held up California's 2006 climate law as a model for a low-carbon economy. Congressional Democrats have failed to pass similar federal legislation.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Stacey Joyce)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (5)
PrincipeReale wrote:
What a race. The recycled Jerry Brown who has lived off the public dole for his entire life and Senator Doxie Boxie who for twenty eight years has done little and likes it so much she wants more. If the people of California get their heads on right these two hacks will join the unemployed.

Oct 31, 2010 11:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
California has been a leader in American trends of entertainment, outdoor sports, cars, alternative lifestyles, environmentalism, and unfortunately of late, dysfunctional state government. Today, the once “Golden State” is deeply tarnished by massive annual budget deficits and political corruption where the partisan special interests of militant labor union, divisive immigrant and radical environmental lobbies reign supreme.

Californians are suffering an unprecedented 12.5% unemployment rate as economic recession deepens. Californians, without any federal orders or proof of climate benefits, naively approved the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32). AB 32 would impose costly 2012 reductions in state greenhouse gases for global warming benefits. All new environmental regulations increase the unit production costs and corresponding consumer prices of all goods, services, energies and activities. AB 32 would further punish California businesses and families with more taxes, energy expenses and unemployment as we enter the third year of an historic national economic recession.

Proof of the punishing impacts of environmental regulations can be observed in records of U.S. unemployment rates. The massive and ubiquitous tangle of U.S. environmental regulations began to expand from the federal government level in the 1970s. Today, environmental regulations and their attendant mob of bureaucrats at local, state and federal governments cost us about 5% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Environmental regulations have also become a free-for-all of eco-group propaganda and gratuitous litigation. Rules are issued by green-obsessed government do-gooders without mention of long term costs, unemployment or proof of actual environmental benefits.

Using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records of U.S. unemployment data, the impact of U.S. environmental regulations upon unemployment can be seen in the 30 years before, and after, the 1970 enviro-policy explosions:
• The average U.S. unemployment rate from 1940 (excluding WWII) to 1970 was 4.5%;
• The average U.S. unemployment rate from 1970 to 2000 was 6%;
• As environmental regulations expanded after 1970, 30-year average unemployment increased by 33.3%.

California voters can delay the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) by voting for Prop. 23 on November 2nd. Prop. 23 would suspend implementation of AB 32 greenhouse gas controls until the state’s unemployment rate is reduced to below an unemployment rate benchmark of 5.5%.

California’s Prop. 23 benchmarking of future environmental regulations to economic performance (recovery) should be a model for U.S. Government environmental regulations. The “new” U.S. Congress should pass legislation to suspend all pending and future environmental regulations until U.S. unemployment recovers to the post-1970 average of 6.5%. The U.S., and each state, must reset the reckless pace of environmental regulation to an economic benchmark. The so-called ”new green economy” is a green fantasy that should not be a national (or state) priority.

Oct 31, 2010 11:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Nerau wrote:
It is unlikely that the 2 job killers and outsourcers – Whitman and Fiorina – will win.

Oct 31, 2010 7:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.