THE MORNING LINE -- February 17, 2012 at 8:27 AM EDT
President Obama Re-election Effort Raises $29 Million in January
President Obama greets supporters at a fundraising event in San Francisco. Photo by C. Flanigan/FilmMagic.
President Obama's poll numbers have been looking up, and Friday morning brought a fresh reminder of his campaign's financial strength.
The Obama re-election team, along with a joint Democratic Party fundraising committee, hauled in more than $29 million in January.
The announcement was made using the president's Twitter account, where the campaign also shared that 98 percent of the donations were for $250 or less.
The $29 million figure is less than the $36 million Mr. Obama raised as a presidential candidate in January 2008, a staggering sum boosted by his historic Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated his fundraising prowess against then-Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
At a fundraiser in San Francisco Thursday night, President Obama told a raucous crowd of supporters that he's had setbacks and made mistakes, but urged them to keep giving their time and money to help him secure four more years. "Remember what we used to say during the campaign, that real change, big change is hard and it takes time," the president said. "And it takes more than a single term."
He said the GOP candidates want to roll back the progress that his White House has accomplished thus far. Expect to hear this message again and again in the coming months:
That's what we're fighting for. That's the choice in this election. This is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time, a make-or-break moment for middle-class Americans and all those who are trying to get into it. And we can go back to an economy that's based on outsourcing and bad debt or phony financial profits, or we can fight for an economy that is built to last -- an economy built on American manufacturing and American-made energy, and skills and education for American workers, and the values that have made America great -- hard work and fair play and shared responsibility. That is what we're fighting for. That is what's at stake in this election.
The presidential campaigns will report totals monthly this election year. It's not clear yet how much the Republican hopefuls (and their respective super PACs) have brought in, but the totals are unlikely to come close to the president's.
For now, the battle is mostly between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.
Asked Wednesday by MLive.com about a series of polls showing him losing his native state of Michigan, Romney said flatly, "That won't happen."
"As you understand with the polling process, you have seen just how mercurial the sentiments of voters are until they get to know the candidates better," Romney added.
"I was asked the other day ... 'Has this come down to a two-person race?' And the answer is it has always been a two-person race," Romney said, before highlighting the tumultuous campaign to this point. "First it was me against Donald Trump. Then it was me against Michele Bachmann. Then it was me against Herman Cain. Then it was me against Rick Perry. Then me against Newt Gingrich. And now it seems to be me against Rick Santorum. And in each case I have been able to make my case and garner sufficient delegates to still be in this race and to have good prospects to become the nominee."
Democrats have made no secret of the fact they plan to make Romney's opposition to the auto bailouts a central campaign plank, should he ultimately become the nominee. The Democratic National Committee produced a web video titled: "Here's the lesson Mr. Romney: Don't bet against America." It features President Obama, testimonials from Michigan auto workers and Romney saying, "Let Detroit go bankrupt." You can watch it here.
Santorum is going to the heart of the matter, as well, as the two leading GOP contenders campaign in Michigan.
Romney proclaimed his love for the auto industry at a Chamber of Commerce event Thursday in Farmingston Hills, Mich., telling supporters, "I'm glad it went through a managed bankruptcy process, which I recommended from the very beginning to shed unnecessary costs and get its footing again. I'm delighted it's profitable."
Santorum told the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday that his is a more "consistent" position that the government "should not be involved in bailouts -- period."
"Gov. Romney supported the bailout of Wall Street and decided not to support the bailout of Detroit," Santorum said.
He added an unusual caveat:
"By the way, it's not the Obama administration. I know Gov. Romney focuses on the Obama administration, and the reason he does is because he supported what the Bush administration did. Well I didn't. I opposed what the Bush administration did and have been a consistent critic of it," Santorum said.
"I actually blame President Bush more than I do President Obama," he added. "President Obama is just following suit. President Bush set the precedent. It was the wrong precedent. And I think that while there may be companies today that are doing well, obviously you have a couple companies here that are, the long-term consequences to this country, having set the precedent of the role of government in the economy is not going to be a good one."
FRIESS' FAUX PAS
Santorum super PAC financier Foster Friess waded into the debate over contraception Thursday, but his apparent attempt at humor fell flat and created a controversy for the former Pennsylvania senator's campaign that looks to stretch into a second day.
In an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, Friess was asked about Santorum's views on social issues, including contraception, and whether they could be liabilities in a general election campaign.
"People seem to be so preoccupied with sex. I think it says something about our culture. We maybe need a massive therapy session so we can concentrate on what the real issues are," Friess said. "And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it's such inexpensive. Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly," Friess added, with a stunned Mitchell pausing for a moment before continuing.
Santorum defended the super PAC donor during an appearance Thursday night on Fox News, after host Greta Van Susteren referred to Friess as his "creepy supporter."
"He's not creepy. He's a good man. He's a great philanthropist. He's a very successful businessman," Santorum said.
"He told a bad, off-color joke and he should not have done it. That's his business," Santorum said. "It certainly doesn't, in my opinion, reflect on the campaign or me because he wasn't doing it as part of our campaign."
Judy Woodruff sat down with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Thursday afternoon. They talked about the payroll tax cut, the Democrats' legislative agenda and the campaign ahead.
Judy asked Rep. Pelosi if Democrats should use House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on the campaign trail just as the Republicans demonized her. Pelosi said no.
"I think the Democrats are running about the future. The Republicans have always got to attack sombody else because they're frankly bankrupt in terms of ideas for the future. We are talking about reigniting the American dream. The president will go out there and talk about what is at stake for the future," Pelosi said. "It isn't about attacking an individual because if you don't have the issues you attack the person. He has the issues. He has the values. Reignite the American dream, build ladders of opportunity for all who want to work hard, play by the rules, take responsibility. But we have work to do to do that, and we would hope to do it in a bipartisan way. I think that's what you'll see on the Democratic side."
Judy also asked about health care reform landing in the Supreme Court. Pelosi said: "I think we're in pretty good shape constitutionally. I mean we wrote a bill understanding our responsibilities to the Constitution of the United States. You never know what happens in a court, but in terms of the substance and the constitutionality of it, we believe that we're on solid ground."
We asked for your questions via Twitter. Here's a sample of some of the submissions.
@DaleDreyer What can Democrats do to better showcase their accomplishments? Much good is done, but no "splash."
@jgreenSTPA can dems win back the house-if so will u run for majority ldr again?
NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns notes that House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also said the election should be less focused on personalities and more focused on the issues at hand. The Ryan budget proposal, which makes dramatic changes to Medicare, has been a central target for Democrats who have hoped to make it a national issue.
"This time is different because of the country and we just can't have an ordinary election where it's a personality contest. We need to have an election with a mandate," Paul said at a Thursday breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "The voters going to the polls need to know what they are voting for. The way I look at it is we owe the country a very clear choice of two futures."
We also featured a story from Miles O'Brien about the security and logistical challenges of Internet voting.
2012 LINE ITEMS
NBC's First Read rounds up the spending in Michigan,: The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future has made an overall buy of about $2 million; Romney has bought about $1.2 million in ads; the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund has spent $655,000; and Santorum has spent $480,000. Restore our Future "shelled out another $2 million for the week after next on broadcast in Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama," NBC reported.
Joe Hallett of the Columbus Dispatch looks at Santorum's delegate troubles in the Buckeye State.
CNN scrubbed its pre-Super Tuesday debate scheduled for March 1 in Georgia after Romney declined to participate.
Politico's Kenneth Vogel writes that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is asking permission to use the cash he has left in his presidential campaign committee to start a PAC or super PAC.
Politico's Tim Mak reports that the chairman of the Maine GOP admitted the party made "numerous clerical errors in counting the state's caucus results, even omitting some votes because emails reporting tallies 'went to spam' in an email account."
The Washington Post's Aaron Blake writes that Gingrich has hired some staff in Washington and is now pledging to visit Michigan after initially sitting back to focus on Super Tuesday.
The DNC is out with a web video Friday morning that hits Romney for the federal funds he secured for the 2002 Winter Olympic games in Salt Lake City. The video stars Romney backer Sen. John McCain calling the games a pork-barrel project. It's worth noting the DNC is putting almost no money behind such videos, which are serving as a test case for messages the president and the party could use against Romney on the airwaves in a general election.
Imagine how Anthony would tell THIS story. Anthony Shadid, a New York Times Reporter, Dies in Syria: nyti.ms/zMjCPZ— Bill Keller (@nytkeller) February 17, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
A new Suffolk University poll released Thursday showed Republican Sen. Scott Brown with a nine-point lead, 49 percent to 40 percent, over Democrat Elizabeth Warren in the Massachusetts Senate race. A recent WBUR survey had Warren with a three-point lead over Brown.
An all-male panel of witnesses at a House oversight hearing Thursday looking at the Obama administration's revised contraceptives rule drew criticism from Rep. Pelosi.
The Hill's Kevin Bogardus and Rachel Leven crunch the numbers and find that more than 20 members of federal advisory committees canceled their registrations as lobbyists after the Obama administration banned K Street from the panels in 2009.
The New York Times' Kate Zernike reports the New Jersey Assembly approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Thursday, setting up a showdown with Gov. Chris Christie, who has pledged to veto the measure.
Roll Call's Joshua Miller writes that Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed new congressional lines that look to strengthen the GOP's advantage in the delegation.
Half of your Morning Line dynamic duo is moderating a panel at South by Southwest in Austin next month. Here are the details, tell all your friends.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
Rick Santorum attends a Michigan Faith & Freedom Coalition rally in Shelby Township at 11:15 a.m., addresses the Warren County Lincoln Day Dinner in Mason, Ohio, at 6 p.m. and speaks at the Brown County Lincoln Day Dinner in Georgetown, Ohio, at 8 p.m.
Ron Paul holds a rally in Richland, Wash., at 3 p.m., another rally in Moscow, Idaho, at 7 p.m., then returns to the Evergreen State for a third rally in Spokane at 10:30 p.m.
Mitt Romney holds a campaign event in Boise, Idaho, at 3:45 p.m.
Newt Gingrich holds a rally in Peachtree City, Georgia, at 7:30 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.