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White House Cheat Sheet: Obama the Fundraiser

President Obama will head to Las Vegas today to raise money for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

President Obama's appearance in Las Vegas today to raise money for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (Nev.) reelection race in 2010 -- the first such event the president has done for a single candidate -- raises questions about just how deeply he and his political team will wade into the coming midterm elections in an effort to boost Democratic congressional majorities.

The star-studded event -- Bette Midler and Sheryl Crow among others will perform -- is a testament to Reid's prominence and power in Washington as well as his potential vulnerability next November. Polling suggests that Nevada voters are deeply divided on Reid although Republicans have yet to find a candidate to challenge him.

The Reid event is the fourth fundraiser Obama has done for the party -- he raised money for the Democratic National Committee in March at the Warner Theater in Washington and again in Indiana last weekend. During that same weekend in Indiana, Obama held an event to benefit four Hoosier State House Members: Reps. Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth, Baron Hill and Andre Carson.

He is also scheduled to raise money in Los Angeles on Wednesday for the DNC -- a two tiered event that features a small, private dinner for major donors and then a larger, smaller dollar event at which Jennifer Hudson and Earth Wind & Fire are set to perform. (Sidenote: Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will be at the Los Angeles event, a chance for the newest Democrat to meet scads of potential donors to his 2010 reelection race.)

A president raising campaign cash for his party and its aspiring candidates is nothing new. President Bill Clinton was an unapologetic fundraiser throughout his eight years in the White House and President George W. Bush not only raised hundreds of millions for the GOP and its candidates but also was a tireless campaigner -- in the early part of this decade -- for his chosen candidates.

Unlike the two men who preceded him in office, however, much of Obama's appeal is tied up in his post-partisan messaging -- the idea that party politics ill serve the country.

In the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, nearly seven in ten voters approved of the job Obama was doing, including two thirds of independents and 35 percent of Republicans.

"Obama's political capital derived from his high job approval comes in part from non-partisan independents and a few Republicans, so he may risk some of his favorability if they see him being more partisan," said Democratic operative Michael Meehan. Meehan added that the "slight risk" incurred by such is a move is more than worth it if it wins Reid's "loyalty" for a series of high profile legislative skirmishes on tap for the coming year.

The Obama team is well aware of the danger inherent in the president as campaigner-in-chief and, generally, works to keep him out of political harm's way. During the fall campaign, he did only a few advertisements for candidates (Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley was one) and in a runoff in Georgia's Senate seat, the president's team refused entreaties for him to campaign in the Peach State for former state Rep. Jim Martin.

In the recently concluded special election in New York's 20th district, the DNC spent under $10,000 on an ad that featured Obama's likeness but not his voice.

Preserving the Obama brand within the context of contested midterm elections in 2010 and in the runup to the 2012 reelection race will be a tall task for the president's political inner circle.

Expectations are high for the president. "Obama's ability to remain above the fray in the long term is directly tied to his success as campaigner-in-chief: a robust Democratic majority and strong coattails make it a lot easier for Obama to float above the ugly day to day politics that consumed Clinton and Bush 43," explained one senior party strategist.

Obama, as a sitting president, will be expected to actively fundraise and campaign to grow his majorities in Congress. Should he do so, he can expect Republicans to paint him as just another politician who talks about bipartisanship but defaults back to politics as usual. Should he do less than expected, however, his own party will surely be dissatisfied -- a potentially bigger problem as Obama seeks to keep Democrats united to pass his big ticket agenda items like health-care reform.

What to Watch For:

Tuesday Fix Picks: Is there anything greater than three-day weekends? We say no.

1. North Korea detonates a nuclear weapon.
2. E.J. Dionne on Obama's "center left two step."
3. The latest SCOTUS scuttlebutt.
4. Another primary challenger for Jim Bunning in Kentucky?
5. Is "Idol" rigged?

New Poll Shows Specter Support Soft: A new survey of Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters funded by a labor-aligned 527 group shows that while Sen. Arlen Specter starts any primary race as a favorite, there is significant weakness in his numbers. Specter leads Rep. Joe Sestak, who continues to mull a primary bid, 55 percent to 34 percent, according to the survey, which was conducted for Citizens for Strength and Security by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. But, not only is Sestak known by just three in ten Democrats in the state (suggesting room for real growth), many Democrats are taking a wait and see approach to Specter. "After Democratic primary voters are informed of Specter's record and previous support for Republican priorities his support erodes further as voters conclude he may not really be a Democrat after all," reads the polling memo. Now, it's important to remember that so-called "informed ballot" tests are not particularly instructive as they present a scenario -- lots of negative information on Specter -- that may not come to pass. Still, the argument that Specter's past votes can be used against him to question his commitment to the Democratic Party is a strong one, and certainly an avenue that Sestak would pursue if he ran. Organized labor, which provided nearly all of the funding for Citizens for Strength and Security during the 2008 election, remains skeptical about Specter due to his stated opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. With a re-written version of that bill expected in the next month or two, this poll is meant as a warning to the newest Democrat that straying too far from party orthodoxy could cost him dearly.

2012 Like It's Tomorrow: June is going to be a big month for Iowa Republicans with three potential 2012 candidates coming into the state to campaign. The latest announcement came from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee who will be in Spirit Lake on June 10 for a fundraising event for Bob Vander Plaats who is running (yet again) for governor in 2010. "Iowans love Mike Huckabee and they respect his common-sense approach to politics and public policy that favors Main Street over Wall Street," said Vander Plaats who chaired Huckabee's victorious campaign in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Huckabee has made no secret of his desire to run for president again in 2012, resisting entreaties to consider other offices including a challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) in 2010. He'll have plenty of company in the Hawkeye State next month as Nevada Sen. John Ensign is set to make a speech and several campaign stops in Northwest Iowa next week and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will raise money for the Republican Party of Iowa on June 25. Love it!

Mission Control Adds Hesla: Mission Control, an up and coming Democratic direct mail firm, is bolstering its Washington office with the addition of Maren Hesla who had been heading up EMILY's List's independent expenditure program -- known as Women VOTE!. "Maren, an expert at modeling and microtargeting (and an excellent writer to boot), will help us continue to produce creative ads that cut through the clutter and help our candidates and causes get across the finish line," wrote Mission Control founder Ed Peavy. Before joining EMILY's List, Hesla worked in the polling shop of Diane Feldman and in the late 1980s managed the successful U.S. House campaign of Ben "Cooter" Jones of "Dukes of Hazzard" fame. Mission Control, which includes Peavy, Adnaan Muslim, a fellow traveler on the "Friday Night Lights" road, and Amy Pritchard, who Hesla will join in the D.C. office, is coming off a special election victory in New York's 20th district in which the firm did the mail for Rep. Scott Murphy.

Griffin's Out: Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin has decided against running against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in 2010, leaving Republicans without an obvious top-tier candidate at the moment. "Arkansans are common sense conservatives and deserve a senator who reflects their values all the time, not just when she gets off the plane in Little Rock," said Griffin of Lincoln. "I will continue to watch this race closely and with great interest." His decision leaves state Sen. Kim Hendren as the only announced Republican in the race and there is next to no chance national Republicans will let him be the nominee after he made an anti-semitic comment recently that drew national attention. Hendren may well drop out, says Arkansas' best political columnist -- John Brummett. If Hendren drops, the names being mentioned to step in are SafeFoods CEO Curtis Coleman and state Sen. Gilbert Baker. Despite the state's Republican tilt at the presidential level -- Sen. John McCain carried it by 20 points in 2008 -- the GOP has struggled to find strong candidates against either Lincoln or Sen. Mark Pryor (D) in recent elections.

Follow Me!: Our three Twitter feed recommendations for the day -- with a White House tint: Mark Knoller, Christina Bellantoni, Jake Tapper (Keep them coming at the Fix's own Twitter feed.)

Crider Moves On Up: Jennifer Crider, a longtime aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), will be the deputy executive director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the 2010 cycle. Crider spent last cycle as the communications director at the DCCC and an adviser to Pelosi. The DCCC staff changes, announced late Friday for some unknown reason, included Jennifer Pihlaja as incumbent retention director (a tough task given the 54 seats Democrats have won over the past two elections) and Marlon Marshall as national field director.

Say What?: "I tend to be a night owl." -- President Obama describes his work habits to C-SPAN's Steve Scully during an interview late last week.

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 26, 2009; 5:25 AM ET
Categories:  Cheat Sheet Share This:  E-Mail | Technorati | Del.icio.us | Digg | Stumble Previous: Wag the Blog Redux: Obama vs Cheney
Next: Sotomayor For SCOTUS: What It Means

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The Washington Post heavily criticized George Bush and Dick Cheney for campaigning on the taxpayer time and dime. Odd how radical tilted to the left the WaPo admits it is, and that it hires stooges like Chris Sleazilla to spin it as OBAMA's JOB to raise money from rich people.

When the low lifes at the WaPo continue to insult the intelligence of the US taxpayer, their dissent into insolvency and irrelevancy continues. Let us all hope for the day that the Obamazombies at the Washington Post have to take down their Messiah posters from their cubicles and are spit into the real world.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | May 28, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't so long ago that the POTUS was telling businesses that they shouldn't waste their money on these junkets to Lost Wages.

Posted by: newbeeboy | May 26, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

And why exactly are taxpayers covering a fundraising event for this? How much is it costing the taxpayer to cover this BS? Hopefully Reid, Pelosi, Franks and Dodd will all be on their way out.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | May 26, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Somehow all the talk of how Kim is a crackpot eccentric, while Obama is portrayed as fatherly, all-knowing, and wise doesn’t quite square with reality when the “crackpot” is running circles around our flawless messiah.

This is the same Obama that was apparently busy with his puppy-vetting process or playing basketball while the Russians where nabbing our Afghan supply air-base in Kyrgizstan.

Obama is endangering our national security, a failure of his most primary duty as president… maybe we should draw a line here?

Living in a celebrity-driven/liberal/MSM fantasy world is not a right of Obama supporters to cling-to indefinitely, as it’s both the voters and the press’ duty to make informed, good-faith decisions… not waste power making a hollow fashion statement instead.

It’s rapidly getting to the point where this kind of willfully-ignorant “thinking” is not just irresponsible, but dangerous. Obamania’s sheeple are deeply delusional... and as Obama’s enablers, these fools are going to get us killed.


Posted by: ReaganiteRepublican | May 26, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse


Be my guest to weigh in on that on the new thred. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/supreme-court/sotomayor-for-scotus-what-it-m.html

Posted by: JakeD | May 26, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Rush Limbaugh is ON now -- this thread is about Obama the [Post-Partisan] Fundraiser -- besides, I already said my piece on Sotomayor (from those who know her): "she's lazy and hot-tempered."

Posted by: JakeD | May 26, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

It is odd that the cacophony of irrational arguments against the President's Supreme Court pick hasn't yet begun. Are they waiting for the formal announcement to conclude? Or are they so disorganized that talking points haven't yet been disseminated? What time does Rush come on?

Posted by: bsimon1 | May 26, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse


The early bird gets the worm.

Posted by: JakeD | May 26, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

poor health, the old perv is on death's doorstep.. N.K.'s population is either too hungry or too brainwashed to stage an uprising..

Posted by: newbeeboy | May 26, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

If you insist on reporting polls sponsored by interested parties (PA Labor groups) and mentioning that negative messages about a candidate reduce his support, it would be informative to report what some of those messages are-possibly informing us of what the primary battle might look like.

Posted by: sfcpoll | May 26, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

"This BTW also may happen naturally since according to all reports Kim is in poor health."

The stories I'm reading are playing the health / succession angle. One theory is that the nuke test & missle launch were designed not as much to influence external events (i.e. foreign policy & negotiations with US, China, Russia, SK & Japan) as to bolster support from the military & the populace for the political rulers - perhaps even Kim Jong Un, son of Il.

Posted by: bsimon1 | May 26, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

All fix followers need a life, if Cillizza gets a life.. we are screwed!

Posted by: newbeeboy | May 26, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Not even 7 am (4 am West Coast time) and Jake is already at it.

Jake, you really need a life.

Posted by: thinman1 | May 26, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

So, is the SotoTUS gay?

Posted by: newbeeboy | May 26, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Pittsburgh Panthers?? I'm a Mountie fan.

Posted by: newbeeboy | May 26, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Interesting article, but I think they missed a few main points. The first is that as I said earlier it isn't the threat of missiles that worry the south koreans it is the conventional artillery fire which can't be stopped by missile defense systems. Secondly, is that the north koreans have no interest what so ever in allowing western scientists, artists, or cultural exchange programs to proceed. Their leadership is strikingly paranoid and view any break in the status quo as the crack in the damn that will lead to their downfall (which is very likely frankly). Third, I disagree with their assesment that the Chinese don't want a solution to the problem. Kim is a grwoing thorn in their side and eventually they will want him replaced with someone who is more likely to lead North Korea in the Chinese model of a strong communist government with a capitolistic model for economic growth. Now that may not happen for a year or so but I would not expect Kim to be alive in say 9 months, since the Chinese don't have the same hang-ups that we do about assasination. This BTW also may happen naturally since according to all reports Kim is in poor health.

Posted by: AndyR3 | May 26, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

It isn't the threat of a Nuke being lobed into Seoul that worries the South Koreans it is the 1 million pieces of long range artillery lining the DMZ that can rain artillery down on Seoul. The Nuclear threat is relativily easily stopped since the North Koreans probably don't have more then one or two bombs left and no real delivery system other then a bomber (which we could shot down).

I think the most likely thing to happen is that China takes Kim out at some point. They control North Korea's supply of food, energy, medical equipment, weapons etc... And if they really get pissed enough (which it seems they are) then they will deal with Lil-Kim as you said.

Also I heard a rumor that it is believed that Kim might have neural syphilis, since it is known that he has multiple concubines a night and he seems to be getting crazier and less and less rational.

Posted by: AndyR3 | May 26, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse


Blumenthal and Kagan offer a counterpoint argument on NK - they say the Kissinger-predicted movement by China toward our view of NK will not occur, and they say we missed opportunities to build up anti-missile defenses during the GWB Admin. They offer some interesting proposals [not war].

Read both articles, if you have an interest in this trouble spot, and its ability to rise up and bite us on the butt.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | May 26, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

The NK bomb and missile story is important.

While Lil' Kim remains no more than an irritant to us, he is now becoming an actual threat to SK and Japan. The pressure on Japan to rearm is now great. This, in turn, makes China more realistic in its assessment of NK.
Kissinger has said that this will be the direction of the NK matter and that we will be able to confront NK more directly as China becomes more engaged on the side of disarming NK.

The joint US-SK initiative to intercept suspicious shipping announced in the aftermath of these tests has been met by NK suggesting this will be an "act of war". It may actually be. But with tacit Chinese support for us and not for NK, the NK sabre rattling becomes empty gesturing.

Does anyone know the state of preparedness of the ROK Army, or whether Seoul can actually be defended from a missile lob of one nuke? I have not kept up.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | May 26, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

"Preserving the Obama brand" says it all.

Posted by: JakeD | May 26, 2009 6:53 AM | Report abuse

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