President Barack Obama was the main attraction at two events on Friday held less than an hour apart. One was in a spacious convention center ballroom. The other was at the home of a party loyalist in a posh Seattle suburb. Both featured friendly audiences.
The departing president and leader of the Democratic Party is picking up the pace of his efforts to raise money for candidates up and down the ballot. Party insiders expect Obama will do even more as general election races heat up.
So far this year, Obama has participated in 20 fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and for individual campaigns. June was his most prolific month, with six fundraisers, according to White House and other records of his public schedule. From January to March, he did nine.
Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a possible vice presidential pick for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton , said he is not “one bit surprised the president is picking up the pace” because “he’s a really competitive guy.” What’s more, likely GOP nominee Donald Trump “is against everything he stands for.”
“I think he’s all in. Based on conversations I’ve had with people in the party, he’s ready to do whatever he can to help Hillary Clinton and Democrats in House and Senate races,” said Doug Thornell , a former DSCC and DCCC official. “It seems like the administration is pulling everything out for this.”
“The president’s the surrogate for fundraising and campaigning — he and his wife,” Thornell added. “Bill Clinton comes next.”
And Sen. Claire McCaskill , D-Mo., called the president “really committed” on fundraising.
“I think he was somewhat limited until our primary season got over because being out there drew a lot of questions” about his impartiality, she said. “I think now you’re going to see him out there a lot.”
As he has done at other points this year, Obama on Friday took his 2016 stump speech — which is built around countering Donald Trump and painting America as healthy economically — to the Pacific Northwest, which is fertile ground for deep-pocketed Democratic donors.
Obama had to deal with hecklers at a fundraiser for Gov. Jay Inslee’s re-election campaign at the Washington State Convention Center. But otherwise, his words fired up party loyalists enough to make them cough up cash to help defeat Trump and send more Democrats to the House, Senate and governor’s mansions.
"We don't have time for charlatans. And we don't have time for hatred. And we don't have time for bigotry," Obama said at the Inslee event, yet again referring to Trump without once uttering his name. "And we don't have time for flimflam. And we don't have the luxury of just popping off and saying whatever comes to the top of our heads."
After a rainy drive to nearby Medina, Obama’s message to party loyalists at the home of Concur Technologies CEO Steve Singh , in large part, appeared aimed at persuading them to stroke a check for Democratic congressional candidates. He warned them that “the stakes are pretty high right now,” ticking off a list of issue the next Congress might take up.
“But that has to translate into votes, and that has to translate into seats in Congress, and that has to translate into legislation, and it has to translate into actual policies that impact people's lives,” Obama said.
Thornell expects the president, as well as Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to work hard because “you’re going to see a lot of super PAC money and regular PAC money going to Republican House and Senate races as donors focus on those races due to a reluctance to give to Trump.”
“So even with Obama and Biden out there, it’s going to be hard,” he added. “There’s going to be a lot of big-donor money coming in for GOP candidates.”
The full value of Obama’s fundraising stump speech is difficult to fully calculate, however.
That’s because, as Viveca Novak of the Center for Responsive Politics explained, “it's always hard to pin a number on how much is raised from any one fundraiser given that the checks don't come in on the same date.”
Still, party insiders say Obama — backed by his resurgent approval ratings — is the hottest draw on the party’s roster and certain to bring in ample funds.
For instance, per-couple tickets for the Friday dinner at the Singh residence ranged from $10,000 to $66,800, according to a DCCC official. And tickets to the Inslee event cost the 3,000 in attendance $250 each, according to his office. Earlier this month, the president participated in a Democratic fundraiser in New York City that saw guests ante up as much as $33,400.
In April, Obama took his fundraising campaign to Los Angeles and San Francisco, two Democratic havens. Tickets for one event went for over $33,000, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., raised $4.4 million from the two events that featured Obama as the headliner.
McCaskill , a veteran of state and Senate elections, expects Obama will be in demand as Election Day nears: “I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t want a fundraiser for the president of the United States. Have them call me if they say they don’t.”
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