Terry McAuliffe had to figure he’d done enough for President Obama.
He raised lavish sums of money for both of the president’s White House campaigns. As chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2004, he gave the president, then a little-known state senator from Illinois, his big speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention. That speech launched the president’s career.
Now McAuliffe is running for governor of Virginia, and he has asked the president for the vaunted database that campaign officials from left and right credit with lifting the Obama campaign to victory in 2012. McAuliffe faces a stiff uphill battle against Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s popular Tea Party-allied attorney general whose own voter/volunteer/donor lists are perhaps the most extensive in the commonwealth.
But it might not happen. Democrats, including McAuliffe so far, and progressive groups from across the country are hearing the same message from the Obama camp: We’ll show you how we gathered the 16 million names and extensive voter/volunteer/donor profiles, and you can do it yourself; but we’re not handing over our lists to anyone.
The 2012 Obama campaign database, assembled at tremendous cost — the software alone is worth about $100 million — would not be all that helpful to other Democratic candidates, Obama campaign officials said. The information was gathered to serve the president’s campaign, the president’s agenda … and the interests of those voters would not necessarily transfer to other candidates.
Democrats say “hogwash.” They say data is data, phone numbers and emails are phone numbers and emails … and it’s better that the president, who has won his final campaign, help others get elected who could further his agenda. But they are finding what Republicans have long known — that, in Obama’s world, politics is not a team sport.
“[They are] reflexively unhelpful,” said one Democrat strategist of the Obama team.
But why? Why wouldn’t President Obama help a Terry McAuliffe or help Democrats defend any of the 20 Senate seats up in 2014? There seem to be two basic reasons: He wants to use his lists, which measure everything from political preferences to TV viewing habits, to further his legislative agenda, and he wants to become a kingmaker.
Evidence of the first came this week when top campaign aide Stephanie Cutter sent an email to supporters asking for stories on how a $2,000 tax increase — which would occur if we go over the fiscal cliff — would hurt their lives. Evidence of the second came in Charlotte, N.C., when Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBill Clinton on the mend after infection lands him in hospital Biden sends 'best wishes' to Clinton following hospitalization Appeals court allows Texas abortion law to stand MORE delivered the most effective speech of either convention on behalf of President Obama.
You see, the president wants to identify candidates who would be not only Democratic officeholders but Obamacratic — loyal to him and his ideas. And Bill is hoping Hillary can fit that bill.
It may not end this way. President Obama may become that team player. He may share the data and otherwise help candidates from coast to coast. But don’t be surprised if that doesn’t occur.
Ford O'Connell is a Republican strategist, conservative activist and political analyst. A frequent commentator on Fox News, CNN and other broadcast media, he worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign.