Tales from the Trail

Inside the Obama fundraising machine: leadership circles

By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO, Jan 14 (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and its key supporters are looking to grow on a national scale a fundraising concept that was successful in its Democratic stronghold of Chicago, sources familiar with the program said on Saturday.

Eager to widen its donor base, the Obama campaign is using its team of top fundraisers and donors to distribute marketing materials to thousands of potential top-dollar donors across the nation. Those among them who donate $5,000 — the maximum legal contribution to a presidential candidate in the 2012 cycle — will gain a stream of perks large and small, sources said.

The benefits could include free entry to campaign fundraisers featuring the president, access to strategy sessions at headquarters, and pizza parties at the homes of supporters to watch upcoming voting contests to pick the Republican candidate challenging Obama for the White House in 2012.

The campaign hopes to draw thousands to this category of donor, which so far includes roughly 80 people in Chicago, the Democratic bastion where Obama has supporters with deep pockets.

Members of the pilot group, called the “Chicago Leadership Circle,” paid $5,000 either in a lump sum or over five months to get “unparalleled networking opportunities” to meet with campaign officials and key political operatives coming to Chicago for events and strategy meetings, according to sources and the program’s marketing materials.

Huntsman wouldn’t be the only U.S. president to speak Chinese

 

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman’s language skills have been in the spotlight since Saturday, when he said during a presidential candidates’ debate that his rival Mitt Romney does not understand U.S. relations with China — underscoring his point by saying so in Mandarin.

Huntsman is a former U.S. ambassador to China who learned the language as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan in the late 1980s. His campaign says the former governor of Utah also speaks Hokkien, a Chinese dialect used in Taiwan. 

Polls give Huntsman only a slim chance of making it to the White House, perhaps because some Republican voters view him as too moderate for serving as Democratic President Barack Obama’s emissary in Beijing. He has only about 3 percent support in the race for the Republican nomination to oppose Obama’s re-election bid, according to polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com.

Mitt Romney says Obama breaks vows, just like Kim Kardashian

President Barack Obama and reality television celebrity Kim Kardashian have something in common, according to Mitt Romney – they don’t know how to keep a promise.

“I’ve been looking at some video clips on YouTube of President Obama, then-candidate Obama, going through Iowa, making promises,” Romney said during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Sunday.

“I think the gap between his promises and his performance is the largest I’ve seen, well, since the Kardashian wedding and the promise of until death do we part,” said the Republican presidential candidate.

Romney unveils happy ad for TV, goes negative on the web

Mitt Romney’s campaign is out with a new, upbeat television ad in Iowa extolling “the American ideals of economic freedom and opportunity.” The video weaves together farm imagery and a soaring voice-over by Romney, who says that “the principles that made this nation a great and powerful leader in the world have not lost their meaning”:

“When generations of immigrants looked up and saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time, one thing they knew beyond any doubt, and that is they were coming to a place where anything was possible. That in America, their children would have a better life”

Meanwhile, his campaign issued a new web video targeting President Obama that coincided with Romney’s visit to Davenport, Iowa, yesterday, four years after Obama visited the Mississippi River city as a candidate. “It is time for this pessimistic president to step aside and let American optimism that built this greatest nation on earth, build a greater future for our children,” Romney says in the video.

Biden, Romney spar over economic policy

By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO — Vice President Joe Biden, in his first public criticism of a 2012 Republican presidential candidate, criticized Mitt Romney’s economic policies in an opinion piece in Iowa’s biggest newspaper on Friday.

“Romney appears satisfied to settle for an economy in which fewer people succeed, while the majority of Americans are left to tread water or fall behind,” Biden wrote in the Des Moines Register, which last week endorsed Romney for the Republican nomination.

In the piece, Biden laid out his working-class background — which the Obama campaign will tout in rust-belt swing states in 2012 — and said he and Obama were champions of equal opportunity for all, not an entitlement society, as Romney alleged.

Obama campaign reaches out in hard-fought states

By Eric Johnson

CHICAGO – U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, which has already proven its fund-raising prowess on its own behalf, is sharing the wealth. The campaign launched a joint fundraising committee to benefit the Democratic Party in the all-important “swing states,” where voting is expected to be close next year, and costs are expected to be high.

The new “Swing State Victory Fund” is the campaign’s second joint account, according to the Federal Election Commission. The fund will help the campaign and state parties in battleground states to fill their coffers as they push to elect. The states connected with the joint account are: Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

An individual could contribute a maximum of $10,000 to each state party per calendar year, in addition to the $2,500 maximum that can be donated to a candidate during the primary and the general election seasons, respectively, according to the FEC.

Washington Extra – End in sight

President Obama didn’t bite when asked by a White House reporter today if he still thought the U.S. war in Iraq was “a dumb war.” Back in 2002, he could get away with such a blunt statement. As president, and with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at his side, he needed to be more subtle.

Up the two men went to Arlington Cemetery, their motorcade driving past the white grave stones of wars past and present, canon shots firing in the background, until they arrived at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A military band played both countries’ anthems, Obama stood with his hand over his heart for both songs while Maliki stood erect with his hands by his sides.

Obama said it was Maliki who wanted to go to Arlington, but it turned out to be a fitting, if somber way for Obama to close this chapter. By going to a place where the costs of war are so much in evidence, he was able to answer the “dumb war” question in a serene, statesman-like way.

Newark mayor campaigns for Obama, hits Romney’s “business experience”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, campaigning in New Hampshire for President Obama, lit into one of Republican Mitt Romney’s main arguments for his candidacy: his business experience.

The former Massachusetts governor rarely misses an opportunity to remind voters that he spent “25 years in the private sector” and “understands the real economy,” unlike President Obama.

Booker took issue with that argument after a stump speech for Obama in Plymouth, N.H., and made his point by singling out fellow Democrat and former New Jersey Governor and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine, who is at the center of the collapse of brokerage firm MF Global.

Romney takes a swing at Obama golf habit

Most presidents have their hobbies. George W. Bush loved to clear brush on his Texas ranch, and to take long mountain bike rides. Bill Clinton played the saxophone. John Quincy Adams reportedly liked to skinny-dip in the Potomac River.

Barack Obama likes to play golf. And Republican challenger Mitt Romney doesn’t approve.

The Romney campaign on Wednesday launched a website, fortyfore.com, that takes a swing at Obama’s golf habit. The site says that Obama has played “1,584 holes since 2009″ — the equivalent of 88 rounds of golf as he nears the end of his third year in office. That would put Obama far short of House Speaker John Boehner, who reportedly works much harder on the links to maintain a single-digit handicap.

from Political Theater:

Rick Perry denounces “Obama’s war on religion” in new TV ad

Governor Rick Perry accuses President Obama of leading a "war on religion" in his latest ad, a thirty second spot airing in Iowa that also condemns gays serving openly the military and regulations on school prayer.

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,” says Perry, who is polling at around 11 percent in Iowa according to a NYT/CBS poll released yesterday.

"But you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school."