POLITICS -- September 26, 2011 at 8:42 AM ET
Candidate Obama Engages His GOP Opponents On Fundraising Swing
President Barack Obama greets supporters after speaking at a campaign fundraiser September 25, 2011 at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Wash. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.
President Obama began his three-day Western fundraising swing (containing seven events with an expected $8 million haul), shedding any pretense that the campaign season is not yet in full swing.
It's here, and President Obama is keenly focused on whipping up enthusiasm among his core supporters. He knows there is no faster way to do that than to directly engage the opposition. He also knows folks like some red meat in exchange for their $2,500 (or in some cases, $35,800) ticket to a fundraiser.
"This stuff is always hard. But this is going to be especially hard, because a lot of people are discouraged and a lot of people are disillusioned about the capacity of their leadership and of government to make significant changes in their -- that impact them in a positive way," President Obama told the high-dollar crowd at the Medina, Wash. home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley.
Then he put forth the contrast.
"But I'm determined, because there is too much at stake. The alternative I think is an approach to government that will fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st century. And that's not the kind of society that I want to bequeath to Malia and Sasha -- and your children and your grandchildren," he said.
The Obama campaign team is eager to get to the contrast phase of the 2012 election so that the president can stop running against himself and the economy entirely. However, a Republican nominee is not likely to emerge for a true one-on-one contest for quite some time. It is clear that President Obama is not interested in waiting much longer. Building a negative frame around his opposition is the only path he has to success in the current political climate and he has clearly decided that the work of doing that can't just be left to surrogates.
At his third fundraiser of the day, Mr. Obama took direct aim at GOP front-runner Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas.
"Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republicans but are puzzled by what's happened to that party ... I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? You've got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change," he said to the crowd at the home of Symantec's John Thompson.
"It's true. You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they're gay," he added.
"That's not reflective of who we are," Mr. Obama said. "This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country. 2008 was an important direction. 2012 is a more important election."
If the Obama team is going to insist that the 2012 election will be more of a choice between two candidates than a referendum on the incumbent, it only makes sense for Mr. Obama to begin engaging on making that choice clear. At the very least, it will help motivate what is perceived to be a less enthused base of supporters.
The next time Mr. Obama is asked in an interview to weigh in on 2012, it seems his preferred answer that he isn't focused on it yet, and that there will be plenty of campaign time next year, is no longer operative.
It is true that lots of big time Republican donors are still sitting on the sidelines in the 2012 race and that many of them have been firing up the phone lines in Trenton to woo Gov. Christie, R-N.J., into the race.
It is also true that Rick Perry's example of late entry is a cautionary tale.
There has not yet been a single indication from Christie or his inner circle that there has been any change to his thinking about a 2012 run.
The Garden State governor will have his every word watched this week as his crisscrosses the country raising money. He is in Missouri Monday and at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Tuesday.
Should he choose to remain on the sidelines, Christie will eventually need to find a way to end this chatter in a way that won't allow it to resurface again, but for the moment he continues to take the calls and give a hearing to his supporters.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post provides a must-read take on reasons for Christie to run and reasons he should take a pass.
DRAWING THE SHORT STRAW(S)
Rick Perry took home two silver medals in straw polls held over the weekend, a pair of blows to the presumptive front-runner following last Thursday's uneven debate performance.
The more stinging result came in Florida, where the state GOP held its "Presidency 5" event, which concluded with Saturday's straw poll. Surprise winner Herman Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza chief executive, received 37 percent of the vote.
Perry finished a distant second, with 15 percent, after spending three days in Orlando courting delegates. Mitt Romney, who left Friday after delivering remarks to the regional Conservative Political Action Conference, placed third, with 14 percent.
POLITICO's Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman wrote Sunday that Perry's "unfocused debate performance" and "thumping defeat" in the straw poll "amounted to a vote of no confidence from dissatisfied activists."
Cain told NBC's "Today" show Monday that his victory was "not a protest vote" against Perry. Instead, Cain contended the balloting proves voters are "listening to the message and not just, with all due respect, the media."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who took fourth in the Florida straw poll with 11 percent, offered his own take on the results during a weekend campaign stop in Iowa.
"People are tired are being told that these are the only two candidates that you get to choose from. Because they're not particularly happy with those candidates," Santorum remarked Sunday about Perry and Romney while attending a gun show in Des Moines, reported the Des Moines Register's Kathie Obradovich.
"The bottom line is, neither of these candidates have lit anybody on fire and they both have major issues with respect to winning the nomination," Santorum added.
Still, Romney managed score a convincing win the the straw poll held Sunday at the Mackinac Island Republican Leadership Conference in Michigan.
Romney, who had been the clear favorite because of his deep ties to the state (his father, George Romney, was governor in the '60s), received 51 percent of the votes cast. Perry again finished a distant second, this time with 17 percent of the vote.
The top two contenders for the GOP nomination were the only candidates to address the conference, with Perry speaking mid-day Saturday, while Romney delivered remarks during the dinner program later that evening.
Conference attendees were also surveyed for their vice presidential preferences, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the clear favorite with 23 percent of the vote, followed by Cain at 14 percent.
ON THE TRAIL
All events listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama participates in a LinkedIn town hall meeting in Mountain View, Calif., at 2 p.m., and later holds fund-raising events in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul receives an endorsement from a New Jersey state senator in Trenton at 12 p.m., attends a rally in New York City at 8 p.m., and appears on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" at 11 p.m.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann holds a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at 1 p.m.
Mitt Romney meets with Donald Trump in New York City at 2 p.m.
For all future campaign events, be sure to check out our Political Calendar.