This article titled “Barack Obama in California to rally Democrats for midterms House push” was written by Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles, for theguardian.com on Saturday 8th September 2018 17.39 Asia/Kolkata
Barack Obama’s dramatic foray into the midterm election season rolls into California on Saturday, as the former president headlines a rally to stir the Democratic party faithful and boost candidates in seven congressional races seen as key to winning control of the House of Representatives in November.Related: Obama speaks out against Trump and attacks ‘politics of fear and resentment’
Having seized the limelight at the University of Illinois on Friday with an electric speech denouncing the divisiveness and resentment of Trump-era politics, Obama will address an invitation-only audience at the Anaheim convention center, a stone’s throw from Disneyland in the vast suburbs between Los Angeles and San Diego.
It is a part of the Golden State that is rapidly ransforming from rock-ribbed Republican to solid Democratic blue thanks to demographic shifts and a marked local distaste for the Trump brand of conservative politics.
Four of the congressional candidates who will share the stage with the former president are fighting for Republican-held seats less than an hour’s drive away. All seven are competing in districts that favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
In contrast to Friday’s event in Illinois, when Obama was addressing students and urging them to make themselves heard at the ballot box, the California rally will be aimed primarily at Democratic operatives and their key supporters. Despite some clamor for tickets after the event was announced two days ago, the event is closed to the public.
The former president remains broadly popular in California and has just had a street named after him in an up-and-coming, historically African American section of Los Angeles. While he visited frequently, both as a candidate and as president – Los Angeles in particular grew to fear the “Obamajams” his motorcade would invariably create on the freeways – he usually came for fundraisers and never held a major public rally because electoral logic tended to draw his attention elsewhere.
As Obama said in Illinois, though: “This moment really is different. The stakes really are higher.” And California, for once, is front and centre in the struggle to turn the House back to Democratic control for the first time in eight years.
The two most powerful incumbent Republicans in the contested districts – Darrell Issa, a former House oversight committee chair, and Ed Royce, chair of the foreign affairs committee – are retiring. Their seats are seen as particularly ripe for the taking.Related: Barack Obama: You need to vote because our democracy depends on it
Also seen as particularly vulnerable is Dana Rohrabacher, known for his close ties to Russia, who was recently featured in Sacha Baron Cohen’s TV show Who Is America? speaking in favor of arming schoolchildren. Rohrabacher’s opponent, Harley Rouda, took the opportunity to paint Rohrabacher as both gullible and extreme. Rohrabacher countered that the show was nothing but a “sick fraud”.
Democratic operatives believe they’ll need to win at least four of the seven seats if they are to stand a chance of reaching the net gain of 23 seats they need to take control of the House. Winning all seven appears eminently possible, and in a particularly good showing might extend that to three or four more seats in California currently scored as leaning Republican.
What haunts party leaders, though, is the historically poor showing of rank-and-file Democrats in midterm elections. While they are seeing evidence of far greater motivation than usual among their supporters, as well as a surge of new candidates for office, they will be looking to Obama and other Democratic stars to keep the faithful laser-focused on the task at hand – and reach out to disaffected Republicans and independents while they are at it.
Obama’s message in Illinois seemed designed to straddle the twin aims of motivating the base and appealing to a saner, more inclusive, less divisive style of politics. He is expecting to carry that message over as his campaign tour continues, first in California and then in Ohio.
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