President Obama is back in Los Angeles for a series of fundraising events, arriving Monday evening amid a firestorm of frustration over the rocky rollout of Obamacare and worries that the debacle will hurt Democrats in next year’s midterm elections.
“The best thing he can do for his party is to fix that website,” said Raphe Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles, referring to the online portal for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The president began a West Coast fundraising trip with two events in Seattle Sunday. In San Francisco earlier Monday, he focused on immigration reform during his remarks.
At one point, Obama was interrupted by a heckler standing on the stage behind him who shouted at the president to stop deportations that split up families. Obama says he needs Congress to change the law to have that power. When security tried to remove the demonstrator from the event, Obama said he could stay and that they share the same goal.
"It won't be as easy as just shouting," the president said. "It requires us lobbying."
Facing opposition from many rank-and-file Republicans, House GOP leaders don't plan to hold any votes on immigration during what remains of this year.
In Los Angeles, the president was to attend an evening reception at the Beverly Hills home of Magic Johnson. Guests are paying $2,500 to attend — $15,000 for a photo op with the president.
Later Monday night, longtime Democratic Party donor Haim Saban hosts his first-ever event with President Obama – also in Beverly Hills. That’s significant because the billionaire media mogul, an Israeli American, once doubted the president's commitment to Israel.
Tickets for the Saban event top $16,000 a head.
In addition to the DreamWorks Studio visit Tuesday, Obama attends a roundtable discussion at the Hancock Park home of “Friends” creator Marta Kauffman. All of the money raised in L.A. will go to Democratic congressional campaigns in the 2014 election.
Democratic Party officials offer differing views on whether the problems with Obamacare will hurt fundraising.
“I would much prefer we had a solid rollout of the ACA,” said Representative Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) on Monday. “And there are going to be a lot more challenges ahead with any reform of this magnitude.”
But Schiff, who will attend a speech by the president at the Glendale studios of DreamWorks Tuesday, said he expects negative reaction to the rollout to fade as other issues move to the fore. “In the past few months, the issue of the day seems to change radically from month to month – from Syria to the debt ceiling to Iran.”
Successes of the ACA
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz have echoed similar sentiments, saying they plan to point to the successes of ACA.
“I haven’t seen any impact on Democratic Party fundraising,” longtime party strategist Darry Scragow said. He added that campaign contributors – especially big ones – likely won’t stop giving because of computer glitches.
“The kerfuffle aside over the launch of Obamacare, there are still huge policy and ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans,” Scragow said.
It may be a different story when it comes to swing voters next November. The president’s approval ratings are at an all-time low – 37 percent, according to a CBSNews poll.
“The healthcare rollout has made it harder for Democrats next year,” Sonenshein said. “And perceptions form months before the elections, so the president’s timeline for getting this right and fixing the website is maybe six months.”
Bill Bloomfield, an independent who narrowly lost to Representative Henry Waxman last year, already is using problems with ObamaCare as he launches another run at the longtime Democrat from West LA. Scagrow points to a campaign piece he received in the mail recently from Bloomfield.
“The headline on this piece is, 'Bloomfield supports legislation to allow individuals to keep health insurance,'” Scragow said.
At the same time, the election is a long way off.
“Making predictions a year out is folly,” the strategist said.