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Barack Obama

Could L.A.’s Transit Plan Become a Winning Campaign Issue for Boxer?

President Obama did triple duty last night for the re-election
campaign of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), visiting
three fundraisers
to send a stark message about polls that show the
environment committee chair holding a single-digit
against her GOP challengers despite a formidable cash

image6412968g.jpgSen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), at left,
with the president last night. (Photo: AP/CBS)

remarks from one appearance that were released by the White House,
Obama touted Boxer's "work to pursue a clean energy future" by helping
to craft a climate
change bill
in the upper chamber -- albeit one that was effectively
supplanted by a non-cap-and-trade
crafted by three other senators.

"California has been a leader in promoting hybrids and cleaner
fuels," Obama told the crowd, "and appropriately, you have in Barbara
Boxer a subcompact
senator with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy."

But that energy may not be enough to propel Boxer to victory
without a tangible win to tout for recession-weary Californians, as
E&E News reported this morning. From its subscription-only writeup
of the Obama-Boxer fundraising swing:

Shaun Bowler, a professor at University of California,Riverside, saidBoxer has three factors to blame for the uphill fight: ananti-incumbent mood throughout the country; Attorney General JerryBrown's (D) lackluster campaign for governor; and Obama's saggingapproval ratings. ...

To Bowler, Boxer needs to show evidence of a major victory before thefall, but he is unconvinced that a climate bill would resonate withvoters.

Cue Antonio Villaraigosa?

The Los Angeles mayor has
Boxer with bringing federal funding and momentum to L.A.'s
transit system, and his push for expediting more than a dozen new
projects under the "30/10" umbrella has
given Boxer
a new opening for transportation policymaking as the
fate of a long-term federal infrastructure bill remains
at best.

Even Republican lawmakers such as Rep. John Mica (FL), the senior
minority member of the House transport panel, have indicated their
willingness to work out a federal financing package for L.A. transit,
perhaps through a combination of loans and grants. If Boxer can help
hammer out that 30/10 deal despite the mired state of Congress' six-year
infrastructure measure, she would have a job-creating achievement to
tout on the trail this fall.

Much depends on the state of negotiations over a new long-term
infrastructure bill. Democratic leaders have
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) a vote on the legislation
before year's end, and Boxer has indicated she plans to release her
version of the bill in the coming weeks. Would the task of taking up a
transportation bill months
ahead of
the White House's preferred timetable slow down Boxer's
progress on L.A. transit funding? Stay tuned ...

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