LOS ANGELES — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took health care victory laps at the state Democratic Party convention Saturday, betting that the recently passed legislation will help Democratic candidates fight political head winds this year.
In speeches in the convention hall and before party caucuses, the two Democrats celebrated their recent policy win. Some 3,000 Democrats were gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the JW Marriott hotel for the event.
"You all made this possible," Pelosi told the College Young Democrats. "Take satisfaction and credit for this victory. Because when we went up to that gate, you were all pushing that gate open. And that's how we got through."
Boxer, who's facing tough challenges from three Republican candidates this year, said Democrats need to match the energy of tea party activists – and that helping families with health care is one way to do that.
"At this point, I think the polls are showing that there is more enthusiasm with the tea party (movement)" Boxer told reporters, "and I think it is absolutely a fact that we have to match that enthusiasm."
The three-term senator's seat had been considered safe but was recently classified as only "leaning Democrat" by CQ Politics, an arm of Congressional Quarterly. Democrats are expected to lose congressional seats this year.
"We did something that hasn't been done in 100 years," Boxer told the convention's general session. "We passed health care reform. And we should be proud of it."
Despite such optimism, the most recent Field Poll found that only 31 percent of registered voters in California approved of how Democratic legislators had handled health care reform and only 45 percent approved of President Barack Obama's performance on the issue.
U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, admitted voters were "scared of the whole package" but said people liked individual parts of it.
"There were mistakes in the messaging" on health care, Harman said. "But people will start to see the deliverables now."
Rachel Farrell, a candidate for Yuba County supervisor, predicted the recently passed changes will revive Democratic fortunes and even help local candidates like her.
"Once people see it's really going to help the average citizen, they're going to be happy with it," Farrell said. "It had to happen, and I'm very glad it did."
Democratic activist Sarah Richardson of Castro Valley said all the talk about the party's misfortunes has inspired people who jumped into politics to elect Obama in 2008 to re-engage this election cycle.
"Everybody's saying the momentum is going down," Richardson said, "so people are countering what may have happened."