Doing what he does best, President Obama is returning to the campaign trail today, and not a moment too soon.
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama jumped with both feet into party politics on Wednesday, endorsing a fellow Democrat in a special congressional election before appearing at his first Democratic National Committee fundraisers as president.
With economic recession and two wars, the new chief executive primarily has focused on governing and has largely shunned overtly partisan activities that would leave him vulnerable to criticism. That’s appeared to come at a cost; the DNC raised a relatively paltry $3.2 million in February despite Obama’s proven powerhouse fundraising ability.
Now, the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer is easing back into campaigning and fundraising, with polls showing a tight race in New York’s 20th Congressional District less than one week out and with party bank accounts on the thin side.
“I’m writing to you now because you have the opportunity to make a big impact on my efforts to bring about a lasting economic recovery,” Obama said in an e-mail in which he announced his support for Democrat Scott Murphy and tied himself — and the popularity of his economic policies — to the outcome of the March 31 election.
It’s no surprise that Obama is backing his fellow Democrat. But the popular president attracts supporters from across the political spectrum, making his support a potentially potent weapon for Murphy as the Democrat runs in a heavily Republican district against the well-known Jim Tedisco, the GOP leader of the state Assembly.
Obama has been stepping up his political activity in recent days, activating his grass-roots campaign apparatus, Organizing for America, in earnest over the past week to put pressure on Congress to back his budget proposal. Campaigning and fundraising are the next steps in a gradual ramping up of his role as chief of the Democratic Party even as he preaches the need for bipartisanship in governing.
The DNC also is transferring $5,000 to Murphy’s campaign for the homestretch; the Republican National Committee has poured $200,000 into the race.
Republicans and Democrats alike see the first special election of Obama’s presidency as a referendum on his policies and a test of GOP strength in a friendly GOP district. The seat became vacant when New York Gov. David Paterson appointed moderate Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand to serve the remainder of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s U.S. Senate term.
Later Wednesday, Obama was headlining his first pair of fundraisers for the DNC.
He planned to address an audience at the National Women in the Arts Museum before appearing at the Warner Theater, where singer Tony Bennett was to perform. Tickets range from $100 to $2,500, and Obama, who raised nearly $750 million during his presidential campaign, is expected to rake in the cash for the party.
Democrats certainly need it.
Overall, the RNC is in healthier shape than the Democrats as both parties start raising money for special congressional elections and governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey this year, as well as congressional elections in 2010.
At the end of February, the DNC reported $8.6 million on hand and $7 million in debt, while the RNC reported $24 million in the bank and no debt.
Remember the old adage “Follow the money”? At this point, the RNC seems to know more about amassing more and spending less, but nobody’s listening to the “Party of No”, are they? Ironic.
In between the campaign fundraisers, the President is scheduled to stop off in Congress to try and sell his new budget.