With five fundraisers packed into three days in California, President Barack Obama is trying to rally Democratic Party faithful amid signs of flagging interest in the fall election that will decide control of Congress.
His message is aimed at boosting turnout in the November vote, for which Democrats are more likely to stay home than in presidential election years. His ultimate mission is to help the bottom line of Democratic Party-linked groups campaigning to keep control of the U.S. Senate and gain seats in the House, where they’re in the minority.
“I’ve got to make sure we have a Democratic Senate, and I want a Democratic House of Representatives in Washington,” Obama told an audience yesterday that included singer-actress Barbra Streisand and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg. “My main message to you is feel a sense of urgency about this election.”
Obama’s appearances in California come as young adult voters in the U.S. are less motivated than at any time in at least 14 years, with fewer than one in four saying they’ll definitely cast ballots in the midterm congressional races, according to a survey released last week by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
Republicans need to win a net six seats to take control of the Senate. Among the most likely youth voters, the poll found traditional Republican constituencies more enthusiastic than Democratic ones, with 44 percent of those who backed Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election saying they’ll definitely vote, compared with 35 percent of Obama voters.
About 65 people gathered today at the La Jolla, California, home of Irwin Jacobs, founder of Qualcomm Inc. to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps House candidates. Guests paid as much as $32,400 per couple to hear Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Jacobs’s home is on an overlook above the Pacific Ocean, filled with art and political mementos from Democratic administrations.
Asked about fundraising today from technology industry executives who are seeking regulatory action from the Obama administration, deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest defended the practice, saying politics won’t be part of decisions the Federal Communications Commission or other regulators make.
“There’s no reason to think that that policymaking process is affected by the political activities of those involved,” Earnest said. “There’s no question there’s a wide range of issues the tech community is interested in.”
About 90 people who attended last night’s poolside soiree paid from $10,000 to $32,400 to hear Obama and raise money for the DCCC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Attendees, gathered at the home of Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn in a gated Bel Air neighborhood, listened to Obama decry a culture of “cynicism and dysfunction” about the federal government.
“You get a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “The people who have the most at stake in a government that works opt out of the system. People who believe government doesn’t work are most empowered. Gridlock reigns, and we get the downward spiral of even more cynicism.”
Today, Obama started his day at a small-group Democratic National Committee event in Los Angeles before flying to San Diego for the event at Jacobs’s house. Next it’s on to Silicon Valley for another DNC event at a private home in Los Altos and a reception in San Jose with about 250 attendees.
Underscoring the challenge facing the president and his party, the Harvard survey found that just 23 percent of those ages 18 to 29 say they definitely plan to vote. That’s 8 percentage points lower than what it recorded during a similar time before the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans won control of the U.S. House.
“When they get discouraged, they don’t vote,” Obama said last night. “The biggest problem we have is in midterms especially, Democrats don’t vote.”