As the 2012 general election nears, Democrats are starting to solicit funds for campaign coffers; however, they'd better not rely on Barack Obama for any help this time. In meetings last week between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and David Plouffe and Jim Messina, the Obama reelection team declined the Congress members' requests for a combined $30 million from Obama for America and the DNC. Despite the generous help Obama provided his Congressional counterparts in 2008 and 2010, the folks at OFA increasingly are concerned that they won't hit their own fundraising goals, and have decided to keep their focus on the race for the White House.
Aside from denying any financial assistance, Democratic legislative hopefuls shouldn't expect to see POTUS at any fundraisers, either. Obama will attend only one fundraiser each for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and as of now, will not be making any appearances at individual candidates' events.
Of course, this doesn't mean the Obama reelection campaign is actually worried about their candidate's chances this fall -- oh heavens no, not in the least! It's just because those rich Republicans are cheating with their Super PACs, and OFA is worried that the GOP has the potential to out-fundraise the former champion of Wall Street political cash. Here's how they're framing it:
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.
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.
Ah, yes. Here it is again, the same rhetoric that Obama preached for four years, before the self-righteous schtick failed to keep the money coming in hand over fist, and he jumped into the "shadowy" world of Super PACs. As Guy pointed out last month, the Obama campaign did a total 180 on accepting Super PAC funding -- but that's not stopping them from spinning their involvement as if they're holding their noses and swallowing medicine they don't want to take.
Besides decrying the leg up Super PACs have given Republicans this cycle, Jim Messina has also been promising Democrats what I'm going to call "trickle down campaign aid." So Obama won't be giving the Democrats money, or even show up to their fundraisers -- it's OK, because his get-out-the-vote effort will eventually benefit Democrats running for Congress!
“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.”
They're keeping an optimistic tone about the situation, despite the fact that this is a relatively huge departure from the past two cycles, where Obama was present, both physically and fiscally, in the Congressional races.
I would ask, however: does it belie a bigger fundraising problem for Obama than simply the "rise of Super PACs?" In the last election, Obama cleaned house, outraising John McCain by millions -- especially in the elite financial sector. Last August, however, The Hill reported that many former Obama donors on Wall Street -- for indeed, those people contributed to him in droves -- had revoked their support. This time around, however, he failed to hang on to some of those donors, likely because they don't enjoy seeing their candidate drag their names through the mud for the sake of populist demagoguery. It's hardly the little guys on the left versus the elitist fat cats on the right; looks to me like it's a case of hemorrhaging donors.
Whatever the case may be, Obama's hardly broke; the Democrats believe he'll still raise between $700 and $800 million this cycle. It's shy of their goal of a billion, but it's certainly not nothin'.
Unfortunately for Nancy and the gang, however, nothin' is exactly what they'll see of it.