Barack Obama in Orange County Next Week
Barack Obama, presumed Democratic presidential nomination and current holder of the "most liberal Senator" moniker, will hold a fundraiser from deep within enemy territory on July 13 in Newport Beach, the Daily Pilot reported today.
Yes, that Obama. He who voted in 2007 to raise the tax rate for those making more than $1 million a year to increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. He who voted last year to allow certain immigrants to stay in the United States while renewing their visas. Obama is slated to speak at the venerable Balboa Bay Club in Orange County; a bastion of Republican support in a region that could be ever so slightly tilting left.
Democratic officials hope to raise $1 million through two separate fundraisers next Sunday: A VIP reception at 2 p.m. that will run $28,500 per head and a general reception at 3:30 where each donor will be asked to unload $2,300, the paper reported.
With the announcement, Obama is not only sending a shot across the bow to Republicans who believe that this part of California is unwinnable for Democrats in the general election, but is sending a message that no section of the country thought to be untouchable by red staters is off limits.
If you've never heard of the Balboa Bay Club before it's because you're either not watching Arrested Development, or don't follow the movements of Republicans whom have spoken at this heralded monument to conservatism in year's past.
The much-hyped (and, later, much-maligned) Fred Thompson spoke at the club last year; as did Mitt Romney's wife, Ann, in May 2007; and the local Republican party holds regular meetings there, in the region they call "America's most Republican County."
Democrats, though, have made some inroads into the reddest of red counties, perhaps evidence of the weakening state of the Republican party and the changing face of Orange County.
When John Edwards spoke at the club in 2004, the LA Times did some digging:
The growth of the Latino population in the county's north end, in particular, has increased Democratic registration and led to the election of more party members to local and state legislative offices.
As for the Bay Club, it entered a new era 16 months ago, when a new hotel and other facilities opened to the public.
This is not to say that Orange County is going to vote for Obama in November or event turn Democrat in the years to come. There are still more registered Republicans than Democrats (by about 247,000) in Orange County, but the region is home to more independents (32,031) than any other county in the state, besides Los Angeles (69,063) and San Diego (32,036), which could spell trouble for John McCain if he continues to stray from his once reliable independent path (and if Obama continues to tilt right).
That might not be enough to tip the balance of power blue in November, but it should be enough to give Republicans pause that even traditional bases of power might not be as powerful as once thought.