President Obama’s stark move to the middle will cost him. As in cash, and lots of it.
Democrats in Washington think President Obama is hurting his mighty fundraising prowess by repeatedly ticking off the people who helped Obama shatter fundraising records in 2007 and 2008.
To be sure, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the failure to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and a fight with some unions and the left over a trade agreement with South Korea don’t make for sexy Democratic fundraising literature.
It will be hard for Obama to say, “Show me the money” when his allies feel like they’ve been shown the back of the president’s hand.
“When enthusiasm is deflated across the board, it has a direct effect on people’s willingness to donate to candidates and campaigns,” said Peter Daou, a former aide to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The White House does not believe angering its liberal base will ultimately hurt the president at the polls in November 2012. In fact, the White House thinks a fight with the left will help Obama as part of a modified run-against-Washington strategy in two years.
But Democrats say they might find that their once-generous friends are in no mood to fund Obama the centrist.
One Democratic ally of the White House acknowledged that Obama will take a fundraising hit “unless he gets into a big definitional fight and can rally the base.”
Even Hollywood, the great liberal ATM, could revolt over the president’s inability to overturn the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, end the war in Afghanistan and close Guantánamo Bay.
And the White House charm offensive with big business won’t stop Wall Street from giving to Republicans, especially with Mitt Romney in the mix.
Still, the White House isn’t worried, and it believes that when the president’s fundraising machine gears up in the spring, it will once again turn heads with its hauls.
Its strategy is to use the 12 million-member e-mail list at Organizing for America to explain why the president is doing what he is doing.
Officials say they aren’t asking for money right now. The White House isn’t so crazy as to do so when Democrats are threatening revolt over the president’s tax-cut compromise with the GOP.
But when Obama does start asking for money, officials believe real Democrats will be happy to give it.
The reason for their optimism lies in the White House belief that there is a real, if somewhat glossed-over, distinction between the professional left and Democratic voters.
Adam Green and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) might not be working to raise money for Obama, but the White House does not view Green and his 10-person staff as much of a threat for cash.
And more importantly, the White House is steadfast in its belief that the angry liberal commentators who are furious with Obama represent the smallest of fractions of Obama supporters.
Even liberal critics of Obama’s begrudgingly acknowledge that the president will be able to make up for what he loses in liberal support.
“Only 25 percent of their fundraising came from small-dollar online contributions,” said FireDogLake.com founder Jane Hamsher. “They’ll have no problem making that up with corporate money from the KORUS All-Stars,” said Hamsher, using the term for the South Korea-U.S. trade deal.
Of course, fundraising, like so many other problems Obama is having with his base, would be solved instantly if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) became a contender for the presidency.
If Obama supporters were inspired to give when Hillary Clinton was threatening, they will sell kidneys to make sure the president has enough money to beat Palin. Imagine how much Obama and the DNC would raise within 24 hours of a Palin announcement speech.
So it is still possible, as suggested by The Washington Post, that Obama could raise $1 billion for his reelection efforts.
He just might have to find new friends to do it.