W.H. to Dems: Expect no money
By: John Bresnahan
March 5, 2012 04:52 AM EST
President Barack Obama has a bleak message for House and Senate Democrats this year when it comes to campaign cash: You’re on your own.
Democratic congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have privately sought as much as $30 million combined from Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee — a replay of the financial help they received from Obama in 2008 and 2010.
But that’s not going to happen, top Obama aides Jim Messina and David Plouffe told Reid and Pelosi in back-to-back meetings on Capitol Hill on Thursday, according to sources familiar with the high-level talks. It was a stark admission from a presidential campaign once expected to rake in as much as $1 billion of just how closely it is watching its own bottom line.
Messina and Plouffe told the two Hill leaders that there would be no cash transfers to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from OFA or the DNC, at least not before Election Day, the sources said.
Plouffe is a senior political adviser to the president and served as campaign manager for Obama in 2008, while Messina is Obama’s campaign manager this cycle.
Hill Democrats won’t be seeing much of Obama at their own fundraisers this year, either. Obama has offered to do one money event each for the DCCC and DSCC. OFA officials suggested Vice President Joe Biden do two fundraisers for each campaign committee. Obama will instead send out an email and fundraising letter solicitations for both committees.
Nor, for that matter, have Obama or Biden committed to do events for individual Democratic lawmakers. That’s true even though 23 Democrat-held Senate seats are up for grabs in a competitive battle for control of that chamber. And no fundraisers have been scheduled yet for House and Senate Democrats with Cabinet officials, usually a staple of an election-year calendar for incumbent presidents looking to boost their party’s prospects.
The tightfistedness by the Obama campaign toward Hill Democrats reflects the harsh realities of the 2012 White House fight. Obama, who broke all fundraising records in his historic 2008 run, isn’t going to be the overwhelming financial juggernaut that he was four years ago. Obama still has a big edge in money raised and cash on hand — OFA and the DNC reported nearly $92 million in cash at the end of January after hauling in a combined $250 million last year, according to campaign records — over any Republican challenger.
But that still leaves Obama far short of the $1 billion that many pundits had predicted he would raise this cycle. Messina has railed against such claims for months, as it became a problem for Obama because some donors didn’t think he needed their support. Obama could still raise $700 million to $800 million, Democrats predict, a total that could be eclipsed by the GOP nominee, the Republican National Committee and shadowy pro-GOP super PACs.
The financial caution for the Obama team also reflects the growing power of super PACs, especially for Republicans. The groups — technically unaffiliated with any candidate yet already a huge factor in the GOP presidential contest — are prepared to dump tens of millions, possibly hundreds of millions, into the White House race. So far, Democrats, including Obama’s own super PAC allies, have been unable to match that flood of pro-Republican cash.
For instance, Crossroads, the Karl Rove-linked super PAC and nonprofit, will spend as much as $300 million bolstering the GOP presidential nominee and Republican congressional candidates and incumbents, POLITICO and other news organizations have reported.
In comparison, Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC founded by former presidential aides, raised just $59,000 in January after taking in $3 million last year. To counter the super PAC gap, Obama has been forced to embrace such outside groups, dispatching Plouffe and other campaign officials — and potentially Cabinet secretaries — to help bolster its efforts. Priorities USA Action is also coordinating money efforts with super PACs raising money for Hill Democrats.
Those huge sums of GOP money, much of it in the form of secret gifts from wealthy donors, have tilted the presidential campaign in an unprecedented way. In the past, an incumbent president like Obama with a broad base of small-donor support would have a significant financial edge against any challenger, particularly one who went through a long and costly primary season like this year’s eventual GOP nominee will have endured.
Crossroads, though, has already announced it will spend $20 million to pummel Obama and the Democrats this summer, a time when the prospective nominee would normally be focused on refilling his own campaign coffers. And super PACs more closely tied to Romney or one of the GOP presidential hopefuls could quickly shift targets with one mega-check from a big donor.
All of which leads to Obama’s decision to worry first about his campaign war chest, with the fate of Hill Democrats further down his “to do” list.
“Our top priority and focus is to secure the electoral votes necessary to reelect the president,” Messina said in a statement to POLITICO. “There’s no doubt that Democratic campaigns face a challenging new political landscape with special interests giving unlimited amounts to super PACs. We’re committed to doing everything we can to elect a Democratic House and Senate, and we’re having a conversation about the best way to achieve that goal.”
Messina added: “The organization and turnout operation we’re building on the ground in states across the country is unparalleled, and it will help to elect Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.”
OFA officials note that White House officials, Cabinet secretaries and top Obama surrogates — including Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman — have done 15 fundraisers for House and Senate Democrats so far this cycle.
They also point out that Obama’s effort to build a mammoth get-out-the-vote operation in key battleground states like Florida will benefit all Democrats on the ticket, not just the president. OFA and the DNC are expected to spend $50 million-plus in the Sunshine State this year, although an OFA spokesman would not comment on how much the campaign has budgeted for that critical state.
And Obama’s improved approval ratings, combined with a stronger economy and suddenly hopeful Senate Democratic map, are buoying party strategists on the Hill. They know, like the White House does, that Reid has no chance of retaining his majority, nor Pelosi a chance of becoming speaker again, if Obama doesn’t win reelection.
Some Democratic insiders caution as well that the Plouffe-Messina line on Thursday may not be the last word on campaign cash.
Officials for both the House and Senate Democratic campaign committees echoed the conciliatory White House message, despite the unhappiness in Democratic ranks over the Obama stance.
“The DCCC’s goal is to win 25 seats, and President Obama’s reelection is critical to our effort. We appreciate everything that OFA is doing to help and look forward to working with them as we each reach our goals this cycle,” said Jennifer Crider, the DCCC’s communications director.
“Keeping Mitch McConnell and the tea party in the minority is motivating Democrats across the country, and that is why Democratic senators and candidates will have the resources to win in November,” said Matt Canter, the DSCC’s spokesman. “We appreciate OFA’s cooperation with our efforts and look forward to even more support from the president’s campaign and the DNC.”
to our present state of the Obama union.
It just strikes me as beyond amazing that the left continues to depict Obama as some transcendent political messiah when he is in fact the worst money-grubbing whore to ever stink up the White House.