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Obama campaign launches ‘Betting on California’

The Obama campaign on Monday launched a “Betting on California” press tour to underscore the president’s support of workers and middle-class families while calling Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s record into doubt.

But Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, wouldn’t offer their own opinions on extending the Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class families. President Obama today called for extending the cuts for families making less than $250,000 but letting the cuts expire for those making more; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, in May had said that threshold won’t make it through Congress, and instead urged pursuing a $1 million cutoff.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz“There is not a rift or a difference of opinion in the Democratic party about extending tax cuts for the middle class,” Wasserman Schultz insisted to reporters on a teleconference call Monday. “We have consistently fought for middle-class tax breaks.”

“I’d like nothing better than to be debating whether it should be $250,000 or $1 million,” she added. “But I can’t imagine they (Republicans) will even bring the proposal to the floor.”

Lee said Pelosi’s opinions on “the political realities of what she believed could or could not get through Congress” doesn’t indicate a policy disagreement. “As the process evolves, we’ll come up with a number that makes sense for everyone. I don’t see this as a rift.”

Romney wants to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for all, including the nation’s wealthiest. “Americans are struggling in a ‘zombie economy’ and President Obama’s only answer is to pass one of the largest tax hikes in history,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement issued Monday. “President Obama’s tax increases on families and job creators will create more economic uncertainty and fewer opportunities for struggling middle-class families. From day one, Mitt Romney will take action to lower marginal rates, help middle-class Americans save and invest, and jumpstart economic growth and job creation.”

The “Betting on California” theme – which will include events across the state, including ones Tuesday in Oakland and Thursday in San Francisco – is modeled on the “Betting on America” bus tour that President Obama took through Ohio and Pennsylvania last week to engage workers and middle-class families.

“Whether it’s longshore workers or teachers or the entertainment industry … this is a make-or-break time, and the president has a strong record of standing by the middle class,” Maria Elena Durazo, a national Obama Campaign co-chair and executive secretary–treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, told reporters on Monday’s call. “We want a hand up for working men and women, not a hand-out.”

Durazo cited the recent Vanity Fair article highlighting Romney’s foreign bank accounts and business interests, which may be protecting him from paying some U.S. taxes. “We need a leader that bets on us and not one that bets against us.”

“Mitt Romney is not standing by the middle class, he’s still standing by his belief that rebuilding our economy is a top-down policy … but it never seems to reach any of us,” Durazo said.

Wasserman Schultz said Romney finished his tenure as Massachusetts’ governor, his state ranked first in debt per capita and 47th in job creation. “Mitt Romney knows that’s not a record to run on, that’s a record to run from,” she said.

Sources say President Obama is returning to the Bay Area on July 23 for more fundraising, his fifth such visit in the past year. Attendance at many of his fundraisers cost $35,800 per person.

Asked Monday whether the president should concentrate less on raising money from millionaires and more on engaging grassroots voters, Lee replied the bulk of the campaign’s money actually comes from small donors but Obama can’t ignore big donors if he’s to be competitive with Romney. “We’re in an era of ‘super PAC’ money and Citizens United where there’s so much corporate influence and undisclosed money in the Republican campaign.”

Romney’s fundraising in June far outstripped Obama’s, $106.1 million to $71 million, Reuters reported today.

UPDATE @ 4:03 P.M.: Tomorrow’s 2 p.m. event in Oakland will have Mayor Jean Quan and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, touring the Fat Cat Café on Telegraph Avenue. (go ahead and prepare your “fat cat” jokes now). And at 10 a.m. Thursday, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; San Francisco Labor Council executive director Tim Paulson; and San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu will gather on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to talk about middle-class families’ needs.

UPDATE @ 12:36 P.M. TUESDAY: I just got a call from the Obama campaign informing me that the Oakland event has been postponed until next week, details to come later.

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Californians among Obama campaign’s co-chairs

Several Californians – including a tech mogul, a statewide elected officer and a big-city mayor – are among President Obama’s national campaign co-chairs, the ambassadors who’ll advise the campaign and help mobilize voters.

On the list are Salesforce.com Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff of San Francisco; Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo; California Attorney General Kamala Harris; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; actress Eva Longoria of Los Angeles; and actor Kalpen Modi, a former White House Office of Public Engagement aide who’s now pursuing a graduate certificate in international security at Stanford University.

“The President’s National Co-Chairs will be tremendous assets on the ground as we build the biggest grassroots campaign in history,” said Jim Messina, Obama for America Campaign Manager. “They each share the President’s vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.”

Benioff had opened his opulent home for a $35,800-a-head fundraiser for the president’s campaign last April. “His focus on American jobs and support for companies that create jobs here in America are just what we need to keep this recovery moving,” he said in today’s news release.

Harris was active in Obama’s 2008 campaign, building ties that stood her in good stead when she ran for her current office in 2010.

“Since taking office, the President has worked tirelessly to provide relief for struggling middle-class families and to lay a foundation for a strong economy that’s built to last,” she said in today’s release. “The President’s leadership and vision for the future will continue to move the country forward, rather than taking us back to the failed policies of the past.”

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Lee, Miller, Lofgren on Obama ‘truth squad’

Hot on the heels of Barack Obama‘s rout of Hillary Clinton in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, the Obama campaign announced today it’s forming a “truth squad” of California supporters who’ll refute what they say are mistruths spread by Clinton’s campaign.

miller.jpg“Yesterday we watched as the voters of South Carolina sent a clear message to America and voted for change,” House Education & Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, said today. “They rejected the divisive politics of the past and chose progress for the future. According to exit polls, 70% of South Carolina voters said the attacks leveled by the Clinton campaign were unfair. And despite weeks of misleading negative attacks, Barack Obama won because voters in South Carolina, like voters across America, wanted to bring this country together, and change the way business is done in Washington so we can finally stand up to the special interests and solve the problems that matter to ordinary Americans.”

lee3.jpgRep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who spent time phone-banking for Obama on Saturday at the Oakland campaign headquarters, said, “We’re here today because we know Californians are tired of the same divisive politics that failed in South Carolina. We are organized to make sure that the truth is shared with Californians and to respond to same type of negative attacks that the Clinton campaign tried, and the voters rejected, in South Carolina.”

Take that, Bill and Hillary! (Um, and Ellen Tauscher and Lynn Woolsey, too!)

Besides Miller and Lee, other California Truth Squad members include Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank; Assembly Majority Floor Leader Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles; state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-East Los Angeles; San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris; and LA Federation of Labor Executive Secretary/Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo.