Capitol Alert

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Over the weekend, The Bee took a look at what a group of 12 Sacramento-area residents who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 had to say about the president's performance after his first 15 months in office.

Participants in the two-hour focus group, conducted for the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, also took a breather from national issues to chat about California's political climate.

Asked in rapid-fire succession how they felt about several big names running for election this year, the voters -- who had no shortage of views on Obama and national woes -- often came up short of opinions. But here are the words they did use to describe some of the leading candidates for office in the Golden State:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Half of the participants identified Pelosi as "the face of Congress." And by their descriptions, it seemed the San Francisco Democrat's leading role in the health care debate gave her strong marks. They called her "strong," "shrewd," "powerful," " persistent" and a "leader."

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer: Very few of the mostly Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents participating in the focus group had a view of the three-term senator who is expected to face one of her toughest re-election battles, though nine out of 12 said they hoped she wins re-election. The two words that came to mind for participants? "Progressive" and "longevity."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown: Brown's been a longtime figure in state politics, but his experience didn't seem to be much of a positive among these voters. They described the attorney general, who turns 72 on Wednesday, as "outdated," "old" (twice), "unelectable" and, one saving grace, "for the people."

GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman: Whitman's big media buys and high-spending campaign made a mark with these Obama voters. They described the former eBay executive as "rich," "insincere," "big spender" and "scary." One participant quipped: "She thinks the state is eBay."



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