Obama Shakes Money Tree for Dems Ahead of Tough 2014 Cycle

Democrats face a tough electon cycle in 2014, but Obama's fundraising may help.

November 26, 2013, 1:58 PM
PHOTO: President Barack Obama waves after arriving, Nov. 24, 2013, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.
President Barack Obama waves after arriving, Nov. 24, 2013, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

Nov. 26, 2013— -- Back in Washington, D.C., things aren't going very well for President Obama. But hundreds of miles away as he jets up and down the West Coast, he played to one of his greatest remaining strengths: raising money.

Obama's three-day fundraising tour to bolster Democratic Party committee coffers for the 2014 election cycle is perhaps the one sure-fire way the president can help his party at a time when the political atmosphere has turned dangerously toxic for any candidate with a "D" next to their name.

It is a critical obligation and one that Obama as a re-elected president is finally able to turn his full attention to now that he no longer needs to build a billion-dollar war chest for his own re-election.

"It's kind of better late than never," said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and a Democratic strategist with QGA Public Affairs. "There are a whole bunch of Democrats on the Hill who wish he had done more in years past."

"It gives the Democratic campaign committees the money they need to operate in what's going to be a tough election cycle, especially in the Senate," he added.

But the tour across friendly soil isn't without pitfalls.

The flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act's federal insurance marketplace and the flap over whether Obama wittingly misled the country about whether they could keep their insurance has made Democrats across the country anxious about whether Obama's signature legislative achievement could ultimately fail.

A parade of vulnerable red state Democrats like Sen. Mary Landrieu, R-La., and challengers, like Michelle Nunn who is running for Senate in Georgia, have proposed everything from delaying the individual mandate to a more aggressive fix that would allow Americans to keep their health insurance coverage indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Obama's job approval and favorability ratings have taken a turn for the worse, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll last week. /a>

And those sentiments could trickle down to Democrats who are already expected to be saddled with dissatisfaction with the president's policies.

"History suggests that a president's popularity has an influence on the fortunes of his party in off year elections," said Bill Galston a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and chair of the Brookings Institute's Governance Studies program. "If the president is way down in the public's esteem that's going to create a big headwind for Democrats running for re-election."

But it isn't as if Obama is the first (nor will he be the last) president to be considered a bogey man even within his own party.

And poll numbers are notoriously fleeting. Weeks ago, the government shutdown seemed to have left Republicans down for the count, but today the GOP is invigorated by the health care law's early troubles.

If Democrats can refocus the message away from the broken website and onto bread and butter economic issues, they can do well in 2014, said a topDemocratic pollster Joel Benenson.

"We have work to do. We've got to keep our focus on restoring t he nation's economic health. That's got to the number one priority," Benenson said.

But Obama is also taking flak from Democratic activists who are frustrated with the fact that his agenda on other issues has essentially gone no-where.

Silicon Valley CEOs have dumped tens of thousands of their own money to boost Obama and independently lobby for immigration reform. Yet he'll be shaking them down for money with just about nothing to show for it. The prospects of an immigration bill passing through the House of Representatives are slim.

"The timing of this fundraising swing couldn't have been worse for the president and his political team," Manley said. "I assume they're hearing from the liberal base about just about every issue under the sun right now--whether it's Obamacare, NSA spying or anything in between."

Though Democratic officials downplay the significance, tickets to one of Obama's fundraisers today were deeply discounted the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week.

And at an event on immigration reform in San Francisco today, Obama was heckled by pro-immigration reform activists who pressured him to end the deportations, while Congress is stalled on reform.

Republicans are coming to view the implementation of the health care law as their greatest political boon, so they won't be eager to shift attention away from that an onto other issues like immigration reform or gun control.

Even news of a brokered deal on Iran's nuclear program this weekend prompted Sen. John Cornyn to suggest that the president was seeking to distract from the health care law's troubles.

"Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care," he tweeted late Saturday night.

It remains to be seen whether Obama's numbers will rebound -- as they have in the past -- and whether 2014 will prompt a full-scale revolt among vulnerable or even potentially vulnerable Democrats running.

But in the meantime, at the top of the president's agenda should be working overtime to extend a lifeline to his fellow Democrats, Galston said.

"The president's position now has to be that he will be inclined to do almost everything that the party asks him to do to get them out of a tough spot, which to some extent he's responsible for putting them in," Galston said.