Obama factor boosts Democratic Party

October 22, 2008 10:51:04 PM PDT
The election is now 13 days away and California Republicans are worried about the down ballot effect of Barack Obama. Democrats are looking to ride Obama's coattails to an even larger majority in the state legislature.

State Democratic leaders call it the "Obama factor." They credit him for the recent surge in voter registration in California, giving Democrats an advantage over Republicans, 44 percent to 33 percent. Now, they're hoping the excitement will trickle down to legislative races.

"Democrats are playing in areas that have never seen strong Democratic candidates before. Suburban areas that typically go Republican are now leaning Democratic because of Barack Obama," said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist.

The hottest race is Senate District 19, where the 6.5 point voter registration advantage Republicans had over Democrats has nearly evaporated.

Up north, Assembly District 15 has been elusive for Democrats for years, but this year they have a slight edge in voter registration.

"I think we can gain close to a two-thirds of the legislature in California," said Art Torres, said California Democratic Party chairman.

If Democrats can, in fact, get a two-thirds majority in the State House, it would be easier to pass a state budget. Every year funding for schools and healthcare programs is held up because there aren't enough Republicans crossing over to vote for the state spending plan.

GOP leaders admit the Obama factor is there, but the trickle down to state races is not.

"It makes them more competitive in an environment like this. But we have very strong candidates in those districts and I'm very comfortable with the strength of our campaign going forward," said Ron Nehring, the California Republican Party chairman.

It is a long shot for Democrats to win all 10 seats in play, but if they somehow pull it off, a two-thirds majority would make it easier to raise taxes and over-ride a gubernatorial veto.