President Barack Obama visited the San Francisco Bay Area on May 25th and 26th for fundraisers for the re-election campaign committee for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in San Francisco and to tour the Solyndra, Inc. solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont.
Obama is not the first president to visit a “green jobs” facility in southern Alameda County. On June 18, 1992, President George H.W. Bush held a question-and-answer session with employees of the Evergreen Environmental Services Oil Refinery in the neighboring city of Newark.
As Obama travels about the Bay Area, his advisers certainly will remind him that the region usually is a Democratic stronghold. He garnered 2.22 million votes in the nine-county Bay Area in November 2008. If the Bay Area were a state, it would have ranked ninth in total Obama votes, just ahead of New Jersey and North Carolina. It would have ranked first in percentage of the vote for Obama, 73.8 percent, ahead of Obama’s top state of Hawaii (71.8 percent), and far ahead of his national percentage (53.1 percent).
Obama so dominated coastal northern California that he lost just six cities in the coastal counties extending from Santa Barbara to the Oregon border: Solvang, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Rio Dell and Fortuna. Obama won every city in the nine-county Bay Area plus every city in Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, Merced, Lake and Mendocino counties. In the Bay Area, Danville, Atherton and Hillsborough had not favored a Democrat for president in at least forty years, but decisively favored Obama in 2008.
Fremont, the site of the Solyndra plant, however, has not been a reliably Democratic city. For most of the late 20th century, it was a “bellwether” city, favoring the winner of most presidential and statewide elections. Richard Nixon defeated McGovern in Fremont in 1972 and Ronald Reagan won Fremont in 1980 and 1984. Republicans George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson won Fremont in their respective gubernatorial and senatorial bids in 1982. George H.W. Bush narrowly defeated Michael Dukakis in Fremont in 1988 (50.9% to 49.1%), as did Democratic U.S. Senator Alan Cranston against Republican Ed Zschau in the close 1986 Senate election (51.4% Cranston vs. 48.6% Zschau).
By the 1990s and 2000s, Fremont was solidly Democratic in presidential elections. Al Gore ran 12.6 percentage points ahead of his national percentage in Fremont in 2000; John Kerry ran 18.1 percentage points ahead of his national percentage there. Obama won 71.1 percent of the Fremont vote, 18.0 percentage points above his national percentage. However, Governor Schwarzenegger won Fremont by an 1,881 vote margin in 2006 (Schwarzegger lost to Democrat Cruz Bustamante by 1,828 votes in the 2003 recall gubernatorial election).
Fremont was the most equi-balanced city in percentage terms in the Proposition 8 (“marriage equality” constitutional amendment) election in 2008. “No on 8” won by just a 33-vote margin out of 73,683 ballots cast – a 50.0%-50.0% split.