Vice President Joseph Biden implored Hollywood and Los Angeles donors on Saturday to boost Sen. Barbara Boxer's war chest, signaling a potentially contentious reelection race and difficult year for all Democrats facing the midterms.
Appearing at a fund-raiser at the historic Green Acres estate owned by Ron Burkle, Biden cited Boxer's support of the Obama administration's recovery and economic plan — parts of which were not popular with liberals and populists in addition to the opposition from Republicans.
"You are sophisticated people, but it is counterintuitive to tell
people in the midst of a gigantic deficit that you are going to spend
another $787 billion, that you are going to give banks over a trillion
dollars," Biden said. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, Barbara stepped up."
He also suggested Boxer's ability to speak to the party's progressive wing was a reason that she can inherit the legacy of late senator Ted Kennedy.
"It's like that old joke, only Nixon can go to China. Only Teddy Kennedy could broker a compromise by telling the left of the left we may have to give up something to get there because we can't go home empty handed," Biden said, holding a microphone as he paced by a pool among the donors, occasionally shaking hands. "Barbara Boxer, because of her status not just in California but around the country [as] being an unimpeachable liberal, was able to say on these tough votes, to her liberal colleagues, 'You got to do this,' and then give them a reason why."
He also said, "This is not 'Vote for Barbara' because she is a beautiful version of a 1960s and 70s progressive hippie person who is liberal love peace and brotherhood. This is one hard baked senator who knows what the hell she is talking about."
About $500,000 was raised at the event, organizers say. It was chaired by Sim and Debra Farar, Ruth Singer, Burkle and Mickey Meyers. Carole King, who had crutches after recently breaking her ankle, sang three songs, including "You've Got a Friend," before Boxer and Biden took the podium. Guests paid $1,000 each to attend the event, and those who contributed $5,000 were invited to attend a luncheon that included Magic Johnson and Derek Fisher. Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca and former California governor Gray Davis also attended.
Although Boxer sailed to easy reelection in 2004, she faces a potentially well-financed challenger in former Hewlett Packard chief Carly Fiorina, who is exploring a bid for the seat.
Fiorina is potentially formidable opposition because of name recognition and her ability to self-finance a race, something Biden alluded to in his 30-minute remarks.
"You have all been around long enough to know that Senate races are won
and lost by this November, the November before," Biden said. "Barbara
may face a self financer. Barbara may find herself in a position where
it is going to get harder before it is going to get easy."
Democrats have been slipping in midterm polls, particularly in the debate over aspects of healthcare legislation and continued high unemployment. Biden suggested that significant Republican gains would stymie their
agenda on energy, healthcare and education. noting that Democrats who remain in office or are reelected will get skittish
and think, "'Whoa, I am not going there next time. I got a bite out of that apple. I am not taking a chance."
As of June 30, Boxer has raised $8.3 million for the race and has $5.4 million in cash on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. California Assemblyman Chuck Devore (R-Irvine), who has announced he is seeking the seat, has raised $377,930 and has $75,663 on hand.
Biden also highlighted progress of the stimulus package, noting that $28 billion has flowed into California and that the state would reap a total of $60 billion.
"Whether it would have been a depression, it sure as hell would have looked like one had we not made this investment," he said. "And guess what: the eight largest banks in America have paid back the money they owe."