Will Obama be a $1 billion man? Democrats say not so fast
A persistent theme of President Barack Obama’s nascent re-election bid has been an expectation that the Democratic incumbent — who amassed a $750 million war chest when he won the White House in 2008 — will break his record this time and become the first candidate to raise $1 billion in campaign funds for 2012.
The logic behind that figure? One bit of reasoning is that Obama and his then-rival Hillary Clinton together raised far more than $1 billion in 2008, showing there are plenty of Democratic wallets out there waiting to be opened this time.
Democratic Party officials have issued repeated dire warnings about Republicans’ fund-raising prowess, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that allowed unlimited spending by corporations, labor unions and other groups. Democrats say secret donations allowed under Citizens United helped fuel the Republicans’ huge success in the 2010 mid-terms.
Jim Messina, Obama’s Chicago-based re-election campaign manager, told top donors in the weeks before the president formally launched his re-election bid that Obama would have to raise “north of $750 million” this time around, according to a variety of sources including the Chicago Sun-Times.
But more recently, party aides have said, “Not so fast” about the $1 billion figure, insisting that no one in Obama’s circle — at the White House, Democratic National Committee or the campaign team in Chicago — has used that number. Different aides have stressed that the campaign does not expect to need that much money for 2012. Their reasons? Last time, they said, Obama was a relatively unknown junior senator from Illinois who needed to raise his profile high enough to win the Democratic nomination. He also faced a protracted primary fight against well-known opponents — Clinton, a former first lady, and John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004.
Nonetheless, Obama is off to a strong fund-raising start, no matter what his goal. In just the first weeks since formally launching his bid for a second term, he has helped raise millions of dollars at appearances in Illinois, California and Texas. He is set to attend two fund-raisers in Washington, D.C., Monday — a dinner at the Saint Regis Hotel and a reception at the Capitol Hilton, to be attended by about 650 people.
“The events are designed to include the broad range of the president’s supporters with tickets starting at $44 and ranging to the legal maximum limit of $35,800,” a Democratic source said.
Several party aides noted that Messina himself said talk of a $1 billion goal was “baseless.”
He told the Sun-Times, “We’ll raise enough funds to compete and win, and that will take a significant amount given the vast amounts GOP-allied groups are already raising. But this pie in the sky speculation about a billion dollars is baseless.”
Obama was to speak at another big fund-raiser in Boston on Wednesday.