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Why Barbara Boxer Is Struggling Among California Democrats

By April 19, 2010

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Three-term Sen. Barbara Boxer oddly pleaded from the podium at the California Democratic Convention over the weekend, "Will you help me? Will you get excited? I need you to be as excited as the tea party people!"

Sen. Boxer's obvious frustration was due to flagging poll numbers for her 2010 reelection bid. Per a Rasmussen poll as of April 14th:

"Incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer now receives no more than 43% support against any of her top three GOP opponents in her reelection bid...

"The latest... survey of likely voters shows Boxer barely ahead of Congressman Tom Campbell 43% to 41% for the second straight month."

As both a California Democratic Party delegate and a Californian who voted for Boxer in her three previous Senate races, I found her plea to be odd, her convention speech to be stale and out-of-touch, and her total lack of accessibility to be in vivid contrast with all other politicians (including Nancy Pelosi) in attendance at the convention.

Therein lies the root of Sen. Boxer's lukewarm support in 2010 from Democrats in blue-state California. Sen. Boxer seemed disconnected from the painful issues impacting voters in 2010 in her financially ailing home-state. And she seemed genuinely puzzled as to why her political support has faded.

I believe that Barbara Boxer spends too much of her time in and on the insular world of Washington D.C., mired in national policy power-plays and bogged down in Senate intrigues, protocols, and social circles. And not nearly enough time caring and personally connecting with voters back home.

Sen. Boxer's convention speech was mainly a rehash of old liberal issues: the Iraq War, abortion politics, and vague references to "getting our economy back on track."

Nothing about her magnificent work as Senate Environment Committee Chair. Little about her work to support President Obama's agenda.

("Say SOMETHING!" beg my notes from Sen. Boxer's speech on Saturday.)

Shockingly, Sen. Boxer said absolutely zero about education, when California's public schools are flailing badly. Zero about the devastating funding crisis facing the University of California and California State University systems. (Did she not see all the college students at the convention? Does she realize they vote?)

Nothing about the state's sky-high unemployment or foreclosure rates. Nothng about immigration reform. In fact, she mentoned next to nothing specific to California at all.

Sen. Boxer did enumerate a five-point jobs plan, but her five generic points were recycled no-brainers:

  • Making our state the "hub for new clean energy jobs."
  • Ending tax breaks for corporations that "send jobs overseas."
  • Banks must start lending to small businesses.
  • More construction jobs are needed to jumpstart California's economy.
  • The U.S. needs to get the budget deficit "under control."

Sen. Boxer's podium plea for California Democrats to "get excited" about her campaign was odd: the three-time senator seems to forget that successful politicians inspire excitement and campaign energy, as Barack Obama did in 2008. Excitement and energy among voters are not entitlements... Demanding excitement doesn't work.

I believe Barbara Boxer will be reelected to a fourth term in the U.S. Senate because President Obama needs her. The President is flying to California today solely to headline three pricey fundraisers to benefit her campaign, and he'll undoubtedly return to aid her fall 2010 stump.

But Sen. Boxer needs to spend more time in California, honestly and creatively talking about real issues facing Golden State citizens.

And the senator must realize that since her 2004 reelection, the California Democratic party has become younger and far more ethnically diverse. Rehashing yesterday's liberal causes doesn't move today's voters to excitement or enthusiasm. The times have changed, and so has California. So must Sen. Boxer in order to win relection.

Be sure to read Profile of Sen. Barbara Boxer of California as well as 2010 U.S. Senate Races - Who's Winning, Who's Not

(Photo taken on Feb 4, 2010: Alex Wong/Getty Images)


April 20, 2010 at 3:34 am
(1) dom youngross says:

Maybe the de-facto joining at the hip between liberals and Cheney/McCain/Palin neo-cons via President Obama’s continuously-escalating 2010 Afghanistan War of Candidate Obama’s 2008 necessity has something to do with it.

Track Boxer’s poll numbers after the blood and guts really start to fly in Kandahar.

The blame Bush for Obama’s Afghanistan has worn too thin for an increasing number of liberals. Instead of recognizing that Obama is twice the war and four times the debt of Bush, many will just stay home and hide in November, as they’ve got no where else to go with their vote.

April 20, 2010 at 10:31 am
(2) Glenn Davis says:

Perhaps Sen. Boxer’s lack of belief in the 2nd Amendment might also be a problem. There are millions of us on the left who enjoy the shooting sports at all levels and don’t really appreciate her stance with some of the crazy leftwing folks on this issue. All of the Constitution applies to All of the people.

May 31, 2010 at 4:14 am
(3) Riley says:

You said…

“Shockingly, Sen. Boxer said absolutely zero about education, when California’s public schools are flailing badly. Zero about the devastating funding crisis facing the University of California and California State University systems. ”

How can she when the funding crisis is largely caused by overly generous public employee union wages, benefits, and pensions? Students might vote, but union bosses make campaign contributions.

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