Thumbs Down

By David Siders
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 – 12:00 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 – 7:34 am

SAN FRANCISCO — Beset by criticism of the federal health care overhaul and with his public approval rating at an all-time low, President Barack Obama arrived in California on Monday seeking to shift attention to immigration and the economy, issues around which he has traditionally managed to rally fellow Democrats.

In a speech at the Betty Ong Recreation Center in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Obama blamed “the unwillingness of certain Republicans in Congress to catch up with the rest of the country” on immigration.

“It’s long past time to fix our broken immigration system,” he said. “We need to make sure Washington finishes what so many Americans just like you started. We’ve got to finish the job.”

Public confidence in Obama has been dragged down by the administration’s mishandling of the federal health care overhaul, with several national polls putting Obama’s approval ratings at 41 percent or 42 percent in recent days, equaling or surpassing his previous record lows.

Even in heavily Democratic California – and even before criticism forced Obama to apologize for a defective health care website –the president’s public approval rating plummeted 10 percentage points this summer, to 52 percent, according to the Field Poll. The poll was conducted after the disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance programs.

“He’s at the lowest point in his presidency,” said Jaime Regalado, retired executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. “He’s taking a drubbing right now. … He’s in California not only to raise funds, but to raise hopes that he’s still fighting the battles.”

Regalado said any hope that House Republicans will bend on immigration is “ludicrous,” but that Obama is wisely raising the issue “to appear that he’s in charge again … that he’s on the advance.”

In addition to his remarks on immigration Monday, Obama is expected to address the economy at an event today in Southern California.

The policy speeches were folded into a West Coast fundraising swing ahead of next year’s midterm elections, with fundraisers in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles for the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

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