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Pool report from Obama’s DCCC fundraiser

Here’s the White House pool report I just filed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser that President Obama headlined, hosted by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood.

But first, the view from outside:

The view from Sea Cliff (photo by Josh Richman)

Between 50 and 100 of the Bay Area’s well-heeled mixed and mingled with drinks and snacks in a bright, skylit room while awaiting POTUS’ remarks. Spotted in the crowd: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. (wearing a blue pantsuit and gold blouse with a Golden State Warriors button on her jacket lapel); Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; and DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opened the program, citing the Golden State Warriors’ championship win so soon after the championship San Francisco Giants were honored at the White House. She repeated the sentiments she had spoken to the U.S. Conference of Mayors a few hours earlier, noting that during Obama’s presidency, job growth has boomed, the deficit has shrunk, the stock market has soared, and 17 million previously uninsured Americans now have health coverage.

“You’ve come to a state that is in the lead on climate change,” she said, noting Steyer and Taylor have invested much to protect California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law.

Steyer thanked Pelosi for her service and leadership. Climate and energy is “part of the progressive agenda,” and many in the room care deeply about higher education, immigration reform, LGBT rights and more. But with climate change, Obama “hasn’t gotten nearly the support he deserves” given what the president has accomplished with regulations and international agreements. “It’s been under the most difficult political circumstances I’ve ever witnessed,” Steyer said, and perhaps the most difficult since 1860. Yet with all due respect to Warriors star Steph Curry, Obama is “still our go-to guy in a clutch,” Steyer said.

POTUS began speaking at 5:40 p.m.

“I think the Bay Area has been a little bit greedy with championships,” he said, noting at least the Blackhawks just had their victory parade, too.

But “it is actually really impressive to see what both organizations have done, and they do it the right way,” he said, offering his congratulations to Giants and Warriors alike. Obama noted Curry donates anti-malaria mosquito nets for each 3-point shot he makes.

POTUS thanked Steyer and Taylor on their civic engagement, as well as on good parenting; he’d just met their kids backstage. “I can’t thank them enough not just for supporting me but for supporting the issues that matter to everyone in this room.”

POTUS also thanked Pelosi for being “an extraordinary partner in Congress” who has made most of his administration’s accomplishments possible. And he thanked the members of Congress present at Friday’s event individually.

POTUS’ tone turned sober in addressing the Charleston massacre. “In addition to heartbreak and wanting to extend love and prayer and support to the families that have been affected” and amazement at their forgiving statements Friday to the shooter, “in addition to all those things I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that this stuff happens way too often. These mass shootings do not happen in other advanced countries around the world – they are unique in their frequency to America.”

And that’s due to this nation’s easily availability of guns, too often without background checks, he said. “It’s not enough for us to express sympathy. We have to take action.”

His partners in Congress have helped him reduce unemployment, buoy the economy, stabilize the housing market, reduce the deficit, insure the uninsured, increase high school graduation and college attendance rates, doubled production of clean energy (and increased solar tenfold), improved fuel efficiency standards, and more.

“We’ve ended two wars,” he said, while protecting the American homeland and conduct operations against enemies while staying true to the Constitution and the law. LGBT rights have leapt forward. “I’m really proud of this record.”

“But the amount of work left undone is remarkable,” POTUS said, citing both challenges and opportunities to better the nation for future generation.

“First is the changing nature of the economy,” he said.

We’ve overperformed the world economically, yet haven’t addressed growing income inequality. “Until we tackle that, people aren’t going to feel better.”

That means investing in early-childhood education, investing in science and research, and adopting new trade policies that don’t shy away from the new world economy but “lean into it,” he said.

“The second thing I spend time thinking about is climate change,” he said, and if we don’t get that right, it barely matters what else we do.

Reading the latest climate science reports scare him, he said; by 2050, “well within our current children’s lifetime,” sea levels rise by two to four feet. Within the lifetimes of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, “it could be 10 feet, 16 feet. The magnitude of the changes that could be taking place if we don’t get a handle on this are irreversible.”

“This is a matter of us taking some basic steps to increase efficiency and expand clean energy production and change our grid and develop new technologies, and it’s well within our reach,” he said. “There is something we can do.”

“If Japan is 20 percent more efficient in terms of its energy use… that’s existing technology and we can adapt it here,” he said.

“If we know how we produce power is unsustainable, we have the tools or we will develop the tools” to replace that, he said.

“Imagine what we could do if Congress actually starting moving with us instead of moving against us,” he said, drawing murmurs of assent from the audience.

China was compelled to negotiate on climate change because we’re setting the example, he said.

POTUS says he tells his White House interns that we live in the most technologically advanced time in history, with lifestyles our predecessors couldn’t have imagined, he said. “What you can’t do is give into this notion that things can’t change, because they change all the time and they change remarkably.”

“We never make as much progress as we should… we’re always a little bit battered and bruised, we’re always a little frustrated, but we make it a little better,” he said. “And by making it better, we add our little bit to this journey towards progress and more justice and more equality and more empathy and more compassion. And then we leave some work for our amazing kids to do, because we wouldn’t want to solve all their problems.”

But we must tackle income inequality and climate change now, before they become insurmountable in the future, he said.

“If we’re going to make things better, you have to have a Congress that cares and is willing to do tough stuff,” he said, adding he and his allies in Congress don’t agree on everything – a jibe that drew laughter from the audience.

“Ultimately, the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen,” he said. “I need you to feel the same sense of urgency.”

POTUS finished at 6:05 p.m.; press was ushered out as crowd applauded.

Motorcade departed site at 6:11 p.m. en route to Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco’s South of Market area.

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NRCC targets six California House Dems for 2016

Six California House Democrats are among the National Republican Congressional Committee’s 19 top targets in 2016’s election.

“As Nancy Pelosi continues to pull her smaller and weaker caucus of House Democrats to the far left, we are going to make sure that these vulnerable Democrats are held responsible for their disastrous policies,” NRCC Communications Director Katie Martin said in a news release Wednesday. “As demonstrated in the past several elections, House Democrats have been oblivious to the will of the American people and it is time to end their toxic agenda which is bankrupting middle class families.”

In the NRCC’s crosshairs are John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks; Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands; Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert; and Scott Peters, D-San Diego.

The list matches up pretty neatly with those identified last week by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as the first members of its Frontline program for the most vulnerable incumbents. Bera, Brownley, Aguilar, Ruiz and Peters all made that list, Roll Call reported, and so the DCCC will frontload them with fundraising and organizational support.

“Each one of these members knows what it takes to win tough elections: working hard, standing up for your district, and not taking anything for granted,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. “We are adding them to our Frontline Program, led by Representative Dan Kildee, to maximize their resources and ensure they are able to keep fighting to strengthen middle class economics. You don’t add by subtracting, so the success of our Members is integral to our plan to stay on offense in 2016.”

It’s rather early to make predictions, given there’s little sense yet of what caliber of opponents these incumbents will draw in 2016. But I doubt John Garamendi – whose 3rd Congressional District has a 9.5-point registration edge for Democrats – is losing any sleep.

Garamendi won his fourth term in November by a margin of 5.4 percentage points; Bera won his second term by 0.8 of a percentage point; Brownley won her second term by 2.6 percentage points; Aguilar won his first term by 3.4 percentage points; Ruiz won his second term by 8.4 percentage points; and Peters won his second term by 3.2 percentage points.

Notably absent from the NRCC’s list: Jim Costa, D-Fresno, who won his sixth term in November by a scant 1.4 percentage points after a surprisingly strong showing by Republican challenger Johnny Tacherra. But the NRCC must believe that the 16.5-point registration edge that Democrats hold in that 16th Congressional District will be insurmountable in a presidential election year, when turnout will be much higher than in last year’s midterm.

Ditto for Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, who won his fifth term in November by 4.8 percentage points. If that’s as close as the GOP could get in a midterm, the 12.7-point registration edge that Democrats hold in the 9th Congressional District must look like too high a hurdle to leap.

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East Bay Dem wants to take on Tom McClintock

A firebrand liberal from Walnut Creek says he intends to take on Gold Country conservative Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, in 2016, but his goal of enlisting national aid seems a longshot at best.

David Peterson made his pitch Monday night to the TriValley Democratic Club in Dublin, a good 60 or 70 miles from the nearest edge of McClintock’s 4th Congressional District.

David Peterson“I intend to oust Tom McClintock, a Republican in a very Republican district – he’s bad for America and we can do this,” he said, adding he was seeking this club’s support “because you are exceptional. We’ve done this before. We ousted Richard Pombo… and we’ve held the district ever since.”

A handbill he provided says he wants to “take the profit out of war profiteering,” “defund domestic spying,” “prevent Wall Street financial schemes,” “legalize whistleblowing of government crimes,” pursue women’s and LGBT equality, “fund rehabilitation and mental health services,” cut red tape for transitioning to green energy sources, and save Social Security and Medicare “from Republican pilfering and pocketing.”

Peterson said Tuesday he worked with moderate Republican former Rep. Pete McCloskey, who challenged Pombo in the 2006 GOP primary before endorsing Democrat Jerry McNerney in that year’s general election.

Peterson then tried to organize opposition to Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, who he deems a hawkish supporter of war profiteering. He said he switched from the Green Party to the GOP “because the Green Party was ineffective and nobody on the Democratic side would work hard to oust Ellen Tauscher.” When she left Congress to take a State Department post in 2009, he ran as a Republican in the special primary election to succeed her – partly to be a spoiler against Republican “Wall Street bankster” David Harmer but also “to get my message out as well,” he said.

Peterson also has tried to organize opposition to Democratic House incumbents such as Pete Stark, whom he said wasn’t delivering on his progressive promises, and Jane Harman, who he also deems too hawkish. More recently, Peterson ran as a Democrat against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francsico, in 2012 and 2014, believing she needed to be pulled toward more progressive stances like avoiding military involvement in Syria and more actively supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Peterson said Monday night that his goal is to spark a big voter registration drive to engage and mobilize Democrats in McClintock’s district, and get the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to target McClintock in 2016. He asked for the club’s support in phone banking, doing field work in the district, and contributions.

It’s hard to see how the DCCC would want to get involved. The 4th Congressional District’s current voter registration is 44.4 percent Republican, 28.6 percent Democratic and 20.9 percent nonpartisan, so there’s an enormous registration mountain to climb. No Democrat ran there at all last year; independent Jeffrey Gerlach was eliminated in the top-two primary, leaving McClintock to duke it out with comparatively moderate fellow Republican Art Moore in November. McClintock won by 20 points.

The DCCC usually focuses its resources in more winnable districts. McClintock’s district has a Democratic Performance Index – the average Democratic percentage over three similar past elections – of 39.4 and President Obama got only 40.6 percent of the vote there in 2012. That’s nowhere what the DCCC has deemed competitive recently:

  • CA-07, Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 52%
  • CA-10, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock: 47.3 DPI, Obama 2012: 51.8%
  • CA-21, Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford: 49 DPI, Obama 2012 55.7%
  • CA-25, Rep. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster: 43 DPI, Obama 2012 49.1%
  • CA-26, Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village: 50.5 DPI, Obama 2012 55.2%
  • CA-52, Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego: 48.7 DPI, Obama 2012 53.3%
  • 11

    Report from Obama’s Los Altos Hills fundraiser

    My story will be posted soon to mercurynews.com, but here’s the entire pool report I just filed from President Obama’s remarks at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate mogul George Marcus:

    Press was shown into backyard of real estate mogul George Marcus’s sumptuous back yard at 11:53 a.m., where guests were gathered at tables under a tent next to the tennis court. Tickets for this event cost $10,000 per person, or $32,400 per couple with a VIP photo opportunity.

    The president strode into the tent at 11:59 a.m. and was briefly introduced by Marcus. Remarks began at noon.

    Obama said there are two reasons he’s here: the fine weather, and the connection he made with George and Judy Marcus’ infant granddaughter. “I may take her with me.” He lauded Marcus as someone who has lived the American dream, remembers it and wants to give back. He praised House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who was seated in the middle of the crowd, saying he needs her back as Speaker. He also recognized Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, as well as Democratic House candidates Michael Eggman (CA10) and Amanda Renteria (CA21).

    Also spotted in the audience: Pelosi’s daughters Christina and Alexandra, and her son Paul Jr.

    “One of my main functions here is to just say thank you” for all the support in years past, the president said.

    “When we came into office, we were going through the worst economy since the Great Depression,” he said, but the record of the past five years is “some pretty remarkable progress” with the economy improved by almost every measure. Also, millions more Americans have health care, he noted, while high school dropouts have decreased and college enrollments have increased.

    Silicon Valley represents the spirit of dynamism that typifies the American economy, he said, yet there’s still a lot of anxiety as profits have accrued almost only to those at the very top while the middle class “is stuck, they feel like they’re treading water.”

    “It feels as if Washington doesn’t work” and ignores those in need, he said.

    Investing in things like early childhood education will bring massive returns, Obama said, and 28 million would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage. Helping working families with child care would relieve a great burden, and ensuring equal pay for women who do equal work would help support families, he said.

    “We have some big technical issues – what’s the next big energy breakthrough that’s going to help us fully contain the impacts of climate change,” he said, and economic issues, too.

    “But if we just took some commonsense steps, this country would grow faster… and families would be better off,” he said.

    The reason things aren’t working is that one party is interested only in proving that government doesn’t work, and saying no to these commonsense steps, Obama said.

    “I hope that the reason you’re here today is that you want to get something done… We have to break this cycle of gridlock and cynicism,” he said – and both parties can and should work to advance the common good. “I’d love nothing more than a loyal and rational opposition, but that’s not what we have right now.”

    Democrats must overcome their “congenital defect” of not voting in midterm elections, he said, and get as fired up about November as they did about his own campaigns in 2008 and 2012. “I need partners, I need help.”

    POTUS concluded his remarks at 12:13 and the press was ushered out before he began taking questions. He did acknowledge his admiration of one reporter’s fedora as the press departed; sadly, the aforementioned headgear was not worn by your pooler.

    2

    Obama, Hillary & Rand Paul visiting Bay Area

    It’s a presidential (and would-be presidential) bonanza here in the Bay Area, with President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul all visiting in the next week.

    Paul, the junior Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky, arrives Thursday for a three-day jaunt. Among the highlights will be his keynote speech at Reboot 2014, a conference organized by LincolnLabs, a libertarian-leaning political tech group.

    Politico says Paul is on the hunt for “two things Democrats usually expect to have locked up in the Golden State: rich technology donors and computer geeks game to leave their jobs to work on a White House campaign.”

    President Obama arrives in San Francisco on Tuesday night from Seattle; he’ll stay overnight and then attend a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising luncheon – tickets start at $10,000 each – at the Los Altos home of real estate developer George Marcus. Obama will head for Los Angeles later Wednesday.

    Also Wednesday, Clinton is scheduled to attend a community meeting at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center in North Oakland to mark the Bay Area launch of “Talking is Teaching/ Talk, Read, Sing,” a campaign to help parents understand the importance of talking, reading and singing to children every day from birth.

    This campaign is in partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative between Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Locally, the effort is being championed by business and community organizations including the Bay Area Council, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, Oakland, and Kaiser Permanente.

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    President Obama returns to Bay Area on July 23

    But… we’ve barely even had time to miss him! {sarcasm}

    President Barack Obama will return to Silicon Valley for a July 23 fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Tickets for the luncheon at the Los Altos Hills home of real estate developer and Democratic benefactor George Marcus start at $10,000 per person (including a photo opportunity and lunch) or $32,400 per couple (including a VIP photo opportunity and lunch).

    Also scheduled to attend are House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y.; and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

    Obama headlined two Democratic National Committee fundraisers May 8 in Los Altos and San Jose. Earlier, he was in the Bay Area for Democratic fundraisers in November 2013, June 2013, and April 2013.