President Obama went to Hollywood again Wednesday, marking his 150th fundraiser since taking office during a West Coast swing that ignited Republican claims that the president is far more intensely focused on campaigning rather than governing.
A two-day cash grab in San Francisco and Los Angeles, headlined by a gay rights event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel with television star Ellen DeGeneres and a $25,000-per-head dinner with “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy, was derided by the Republican National Committee as Obama hobnobbing with his “greatest allies, the Hollywood glitterati.”
But others say it is Obama’s repeated clarion calls for money, not the audience, which is most worrisome. Five months before the general election, Obama has already hosted nearly twice as many campaign fundraisers as his immediate predecessors.
“It’s a prodigious number; there’s no historical parallel for that number of trips,” said Frank Donatelli, chairman of the GOPAC conservative political action committee and former political director for President Ronald Reagan. “It’s far in excess of any president before him — that doesn’t even include so-called campaign events. What it shows is that he likes running for president more than being president.”
Former President George W. Bush attended 86 re-election fundraisers either for himself or on behalf of his party during his first term. Former President Bill Clinton attended 70, and former President George H.W. Bush went to just 24, according to a review of presidential trips.
Yet, Democrats counter that Obama’s frequent trips down the campaign trail is a byproduct of the political times, contending the president will be up against an unprecedented wave of advertising from outside groups and Republican super PACs. Democratic groups have so far failed to generate the same level of enthusiasm and funding as their Republican counterparts, they said.
Obama’s campaign team early on predicted he would raise an unprecedented $1 billion for his re-election, and so the record-setting 150 fundraising trips isn’t surprising, analysts said.
“With the amount of money that’s out there, politicians have become first and foremost fundraising machines,” said Charles Walcott, an expert on the presidency at Virginia Tech. “I don’t like it, but I don’t see an alternative.”
The gay community, Obama’s intended audience during much of his California visit, has been pouring money into the president’s campaign at a steady clip since he publicly endorsed same-sex marriage last month.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is also focusing on fundraising ahead of the late summer nominating conventions that will mark the start of the most intense phase of the campaign. Romney was expected to raise $15 million in Texas this week.
Obama raised that much at a single event last month — a fundraising dinner at actor George Clooney’s house. Still, the White House portrayed Obama’s support as much more broadly based than Romney’s.
“The fundamental difference is President Obama has vast numbers of small donors who support his campaign,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney aboard Air Force One. “That is not the case for the Republican nominee.”
Despite the intensity of the sniping over fundraising, it’s unlikely to resonate with voters by November, analysts said.
“I don’t think Republicans get much traction out of connecting Obama to celebrities,” said Walcott. “And in that mold, Democrats don’t make much of an impact yelling about” rich Republicans supporting Romney.
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