Strong turnout for President Barack Obama could give Bera a boost on the ballot in the Sacramento region's newly drawn 7th Congressional District. Democrats currently hold a less than one-point voter registration advantage over Republicans in the district, which covers area that would have been won by Obama in 2008.
But the president's job approval rating among Californians has dropped to an all-time low of 46 percent, according to the results of a Field Poll released last month. Bera distanced himself from the country's commander-in-chief in an interview today, saying his campaign isn't banking on riding the president's coattails to Washington
"We're not building our race on President Obama. We're building it on the residents who live here," the Elk Grove doctor said. "This has to be about getting Sacramento working again and building the regional economy."
Lungren spokesman Rob Stutzman said while an unpopular president from his party won't help, Bera will have greater challenges to face in his race against his client.
"The problem for Dr. Bera is that he is actually more liberal than the president and does not fit this district well," he said in a message. "At the end of the day it won't be Barack Obama that brings down Dr. Bera, it will be that his view are out of step with the (district)."
Bera, who lost last year's run against Lungren by seven percentage points, announced today that he raised $325,000 in the fundraising period that ended last month, bringing his total cash on hand to $708,000 going into the final quarter of 2011. Lungren has not yet released his fundraising numbers, which must be filed by Oct. 15. The Gold River Republican, who had raised $328,000 as of June 30, will release his figures Friday, Stutzman said.
Bera, who has consistently out-raised his opponent, said he is encouraged by his fundraising figures and the number of small-donors from California chipping in.
"I think folks are just looking for something different," he said.
Editor's note: This post was updated at 9 a.m. on Oct. 13, 2011 with added statements from Rob Stutzman.
PHOTO CREDIT: Congressional candidate Ami Bera talks with supporters Thursday, January 28, 2010 during a small fund-raising party if Fair Oaks. Carl Costas, Sacramento Bee.