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Now, trouble in California? Obama jumps into the governor's race to help Jerry Brown vs. Meg Whitman

August 24, 2010 |  2:50 pm

former governor jerry Brown

As a likely reflection of how challenging the nation's political environment has become for Democrats, President Obama on Tuesday jumped into the governor's race in, of all places, California, which his party has taken for granted for years -- except when it comes to fundraising.

In an e-mail to many of the millions of names in the contact list of Obama's Organizing for America perpetual campaign operation, the vacationing Democrat urged his supporters to also support Jerry Brown, one of the Golden State's more enduring politicians who should need no introduction -- nor help -- in the longtime Democratic stronghold of California.

Brown wants to be governor again after his terms from 1975 to 1983, back when Obama was in school and Ronald Reagan had just been governor. Brown also was mayor of Oakland and is now the state attorney general.

But in this crummy economic climate with the state's unemployment at 12.3%, the 72-year-old....

... career pol faces an ominous challenge from GOP businesswoman Meg Whitman, who has enough of her own money to run a campaign in one of the country's most expensive media markets.

"These next few years offer a complex series of challenges," Obama says in Tuesday's e-mail. "For California and our nation -- and there is much we must accomplish together. Meeting these challenges will be possible only if we have bold leaders like Jerry Brown working alongside us."

California Republican governor candidate Meg Whitman

Obama's e-mail says Brown "wants to return to Sacramento to bring that passion to the governor's office, and he needs our help to ensure that he wins this race."

Clearly relishing the president's involvement, a top aide to Whitman reacted:

"After two days of press accounts about Whitman leading a GOP juggernaut all the way down to the level of state assembly races, it looks like air raid sirens are sounding in Jerry Inc. world. A panic-stricken John Burton probably called the White House. But all Obama's horses, and all Obama's men just can't put one lame campaign back together again."

Obama's recent help for other troubled Democratic candidates has been less than, well, helpful -- ask his party's candidates in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and newly-unearthed Democrat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, all of whom lost after receiving Obama endorsements and campaign help.

Polls earlier this year showed that while Obama's favorability was sinking elsewhere, it remained stronger in California. Nationally, Obama's disapproval has now topped 50%, his approval sunk to 41% and Republicans are smelling blood in the Nov. 2 midterm elections by attacking Democrats on their handling of jobs and the economy.

House Republican Leader John Boehner on Tuesday called for the president to fire his entire economic team for its lack of effectiveness and inexperience in business.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Brown. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times; Matt Stroshane / Bloomberg News (Whitman).


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