Archive for February, 2012
On one side of the board, Messina sketched out the amounts of money he expected Republican “Super PACs” and other groups to raise and spend to try to defeat the Democratic president in the Nov. 6 election.
Drawing a line under that cumulative number — roughly $700 million — Messina then highlighted the amount raised by the Republican groups’ Democratic counterparts. It was a measly figure.
“We’ve got to talk about this. This is a problem,” Messina told Axelrod, according to a campaign official.
Roughly a month later, on Feb. 6, the Obama campaign announced it would start supporting Priorities USA Action, the struggling Super PAC formed to help Obama. The move reversed a plan rooted in Obama’s distaste for a Supreme Court decision that allowed such independent groups to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to try to influence elections.
If there were any lingering questions about why Obama’s campaign changed course, they were answered late on Monday.
Priorities USA raised a paltry $59,000 in January, Federal Election Commission filings showed, and that amount came almost entirely from one longtime Obama supporter, John W. Rogers, who donated $50,000.
The disappointing figures were a sharp contrast with the tens of millions of dollars raised by the political action committees, or PACs, that support Republican presidential candidates.
The results reinforced concerns among Obama’s advisers that despite his campaign’s fundraising strength, Republican PACs could help the opposition outspend the president’s re-election efforts.
A campaign spokesman declined to comment about the Priorities USA figures.
On Feb. 6, Messina announced that Obama campaign and White House officials would start appearing at Priorities USA events, though they would not directly solicit contributions.
But Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, would not participate in the Super PAC events.
The change has made a difference in donor enthusiasm, said Bill Burton, a former White House official who helped found Priorities USA and is a senior strategist for the group.
“Interest and enthusiasm has increased significantly since the announcement,” he said in an email.
Despite the PAC’s financial weakness, the Obama campaign itself is still a fundraising juggernaut, raising $29.1 million in January along with the Democratic National Committee and other allies. It is expected to raise at least as much for the president’s re-election as the $750 million it collected in the 2008 presidential race.
But there are limits to how much the campaign can take in from big donors.
Individual donations to campaigns are limited to $2,500 during the primary season and another $2,500 for the fall general campaign. Because of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that banned limits on fundraising and spending by independent political groups, Super PACs have no such limit on donations.
Obama opposed that ruling, which erased longstanding limits on corporate and union money in federal elections.
Obama “believes that this is an unhealthy development in our political process, but it is a reality of the rules as they stand,” Axelrod said in an interview.
“This was not a quick decision, but he also feels a responsibility to win this election,” Axelrod added. “There’s a lot hanging on this beyond him.”
Priorities USA had raised just $4.2 million by the end of January, only a fraction of that raised by Restore Our Future, the group supporting Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, which had raised $36.8 million by the end of last month.
The figures showed Priorities USA had $1.3 million in cash on hand at the end of January and no debt.
The PAC’s incoming contributions in January averaged less than $2,000 a day. Without Rogers’ $50,000 donation on January 17, the group would have pulled in less than $10,000 last month.
While campaigning in Ohio on Saturday former Senator and presidential hopeful Rick Santorum went on the attack on two front questioning President Obama’s Christian values and attacked GOP rival Mitt Romney’s Olympics leadership as he courted tea-party activists and evangelical voters in Ohio, “ground zero” in the 2012 nomination fight.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator known for his socially conservative views, said Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.” He later suggested that the president practices a different kind of Christianity.
“In the Christian church there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity,” he said. “If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian.”
The Obama campaign said the comments represented “the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fuelled by distortions, ugliness, and searing pessimism and negativity.”
Santorum was forced on his heels in recent days after a top supporter suggested that women use aspirin to prevent pregnancy. Foster Friess, the main donor behind Santorum’s “super PAC,” apologized Friday in a blog post.
In Ohio, a Super Tuesday prize, Santorum shifted decidedly to offense before friendly crowds. Trailing Romney in money and campaign resources, he is depending on the tea party movement and religious groups to deliver a victory March 6 in the Midwestern state’s primary.
More delegates will be awarded in Ohio than in any other state except Georgia in the opening months of GOP primaries and caucuses. Ohio and Georgia are two of the 10 votes scheduled for March 6, a benchmark for the primary campaign that often decides who can continue to the next level.
Santorum has surged in recent opinion polls after capturing Republican caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and a nonbinding primary in Missouri on Feb. 7. Several polls have shown him ahead in Romney’s native state of Michigan, where primary voters cast ballots Feb. 28.
Obama’s campaign team has responded by starting to consider the possibility that Santorum rather than Romney could be the Republican nominee. The Chicago-based organization has begun scrutinizing Santorum’s record and asked its Pennsylvania allies to look for information that might be used against Santorum in ads and speeches.
Even as he criticized Obama, Santorum also went after one of Romney’s most promoted achievements – his leadership at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“One of Mitt Romney’s greatest accomplishments, one of the things he talks about most is how he heroically showed up on the scene and bailed out and resolved the problems of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games,” Santorum said. “He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake Games – in an earmark, in an earmark for the Salt Lake Olympic Games.”