One of the biggest weapons in the Democratic Party’s arsenal is pointed at Orange County this week.
Former President Bill Clinton will lead a rally Tuesday at UCI to endorse five congressional candidates and encourage voters to turn out on Nov. 6. As with recent Orange County visits from President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, the Clinton appearance reflects the county’s deep donor pockets. It also shows how competitive some local congressional races are this year, according to political experts.
Clinton’s Orange County appearance is “all about fundraising and down-ballot races to get out the vote for Democrats,” said Lori Han, an expert on American government and a political science professor at Chapman University.
"There's an outside chance Democrats could take the House," she said. "It comes down to a handful of seats."
The national Democratic Party decided on the five candidates Clinton will endorse by calculating which have the best odds of defeating their Republican opponents, said Nick Anas, executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
Among those seats, is one that will represent a newly-created U.S. House of Representatives district covering Long Beach and West Orange County.
On Tuesday, Clinton will back state Sen. Alan Lowenthal against Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong, his Republican competitor, for that district.
Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D- Ventura, San Diego Port Commissioner Scott Peters, Dr. Raul Ruiz of Palm Springs and Mark Takano of Riverside will also be receiving the former president’s endorsement. In addition to helping California Democrats take back the House, fundraising is unquestionably on Clinton’s agenda for his Orange County stop, Han added.
Clinton's been traveling throughout the country campaigning for Obama, most recently in swing states such as Ohio and Wisconsin.
However, his visit to Orange County during the final stretch of the election is not unexpected, said Mike Moodian, assistant professor of social science at Brandman University.
“It’s really standard fare in presidential politics,” he said.
In 2010, Clinton came to Orange County to lend his starpower to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez as she battled challenger Van Tran in her bid for re-election, he said.
Clinton made a stop at UC Davis earlier this month to endorse four congressional candidates. His speech Tuesday in Orange County will be similar to that he gave in Northern California, said Tenoch Flores, communications director with the California Democratic Party.
The former president’s broad-based appeal is why Obama has been spending time campaigning in tandem with Clinton, Moodian said.
Clinton is “probably the most popular leader in the Democratic party right now,” he said.
However, taking back the House would be a reach for Democrats this year, added Moodian.
“I think it’s going to be hard, very hard,” he said. “Strange things happen in politics, but would be hard in my opinion.”
Still, Clinton's appearance could narrow the races, Han said.
"Bill Clinton is still what we would call a rockstar within the Democratic party, especially as a former president," Han said. "He's very skilled politically."
"He has a way of talking directly to people in a way that most candidates don't," Han said. "If you can generate that kind of excitement at the congressional races...some of them could be close.”
“Former president Clinton gets a lot of attention, regardless of the [political] party,” Han added, calling the visit a boon for UCI.