Obama stakes Democrats to first fundraising lead since 2004

President Obama plans to make two fundraising stops Tuesday night. Thanks to his efforts, Democrats have raised $1.3 million more than Republicans during the past three months.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Nine months into his term, President Obama has already made four times the number of fundraising stops than President Bush made during his entire first year in office.

Mr. Bush tallied six fundraising events in the first year of his presidency.

Tuesday evening, Mr. Obama is expected to attend events No. 23 and 24 in New York: A photo op with congressional candidate Bill Owens and a fundraiser for the Democratic National Party. Next week, he’s expected to do four more – for three Democratic governors and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut.

The results so far have been dramatic. Democrats raised more money than Republicans for the first time since spring 2004 – topping them $24.2 million to $22.9 million from July to September.

The fundraising signals a practical political calculation: The things Obama and his allies want to accomplish are hard politically. “They can’t afford to lose seats in the mid-term elections, and they can’t afford to lose the loyalty of people on margins,” says Charles Stewart, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

That means money.

Moreover, as students of political history, members of the Obama administration don’t want to see a repeat of 1994.

After a strong victory in 1992, President Clinton was “embarrassed and disoriented” by the loss of Democratic seats in 1994, says Barbara Kellerman, a professor Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge.

“Obama understands better than most the need to raise money,” she says. “He’s going to shore up the Democratic base to make sure mid-term elections aren’t going to be an acute embarrassment for the administration.”

But with all this fundraising, the president risks scrutiny over how his spends his much-sought-after time.

Last week the president was criticized for his four-hour stop in New Orleans – the first visit to the still-recovering city of his presidency. After leaving the Big Easy, he headed to San Francisco for a fundraising event that cost $34,000 per couple.


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