Democratic politicians in tight contests elsewhere in the country may be keeping him at a distance, but President Obama is finding refuge in California, a state that has long proved one of his deepest bases of support.
Friday is the midpoint of a three-day trip that mixes official business, politicking for Democrats in safe seats and splashy fundraisers in advance of the midterm elections.
After overnighting on the Westside, the president will attend a private fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee and then travel to San Dimas to declare part of the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument. Then he will head to San Francisco for another DNC event, with more fundraising on tap Saturday.
Obama acknowledged California's persistent -- if somewhat lessened -- support
Thursday evening at a DNC fundraiser at actress Gwyneth Paltrow's gray-brick Brentwood home.
"It's great to be back in L.A. I look around this crowd and I see folks who have been there from Day 1, people who supported me even before most folks could pronounce my name," Obama told about 200 supporters in the actress' sun-splashed backyard, among them actors Julia Roberts and Bradley Whitford.
Earlier in the day at an event at a Santa Monica tech start-up hub, Obama name-checked Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who signed on with Obama in 2007 when most expected Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee.
Before this week's visit, the president had attended 10 Democratic fundraisers in California this year, nearly 20% of all the fundraisers he has headlined in 2014, according to the Republican National Committee. But he has largely stayed off-stage in states with the most critical contests this year that could determine control of the Senate, a reflection of his lagging popularity in places that once provided him support.
At the Thursday evening fundraiser, as waiters passed flutes of Champagne and hors d'oeuvres, Obama recounted improvements to the nation's unemployment rate, federal deficit, high-school graduation rate, energy production and other indicators. At times he sounded frustrated that progress during his tenure has not been recognized.
"The bottom line is, is that there is almost no economic measure by which we're not better off than we were when I came into office. And that's a fact," Obama said to applause. "And for those who think that I'm a wild socialist -- it turns out that actually the stock market has been doing pretty fine, 401(k)s have recovered, and corporate balance sheets have never been stronger. So it's been good for business."
Echoing a theme he is expected to highlight in the remaining days before the midterm election, Obama urged Democrats to engage.
"I hope that in these midterms you feel a sense of urgency about this. And I'm talking to you, Democrats. Because Democrats have many good qualities, but a congenital disease is: a) we get depressed too easily, and b) we're terrible at paying attention to midterm elections," Obama said. "When there's not a president on the ballot, we tend to get complacent. We can't afford to get complacent right now."
The host of the fundraiser appeared to be motivated.
Paltrow introduced the president with her children Apple and Moses nearby. After saying she was one of his biggest fans and praising his work on sustainable energy, equal pay and "everything green," Paltrow concluded, "So, anyway, I'll shut up now and just say welcome and thank you and we're so excited and you're so handsome that I can't speak properly."