Obama Tells Donors Partisanship to Blame for Holding Up Action

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama told donors in Suburban Seattle "From the moment that I took office, what we’ve seen is a constant ideological pushback against any kind of sensible reforms that make our economy work better and give people more opportunity." Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama, embarking on a West Coast fundraising trip, told supporters that partisanship in Washington is to blame for holding up steps that could boost the economy.

"From the moment that I took office, what we’ve seen is a constant ideological pushback against any kind of sensible reforms that make our economy work better and give people more opportunity," Obama told 65 donors last night in suburban Seattle who paid the legal maximum of $35,800 to attend a brunch meeting with him.

The event was hosted by Jon A. Shirley, who was president and chief operating officer of Microsoft Corp. from 1983-1990. Among the guests were James Sinegal, chief executive officer of Issaquah, Washington-based Costco Wholesale Corp., and Gerald Grinstein, strategic director of Madrona Venture Group.

Obama is up for re-election next year and with his Office of Management and Budget forecasting the unemployment rate will average 9 percent in 2012, the president is seeking to maintain enthusiasm among supporters in key electoral states.

After stopping in the Seattle area, the president raised money in San Jose, California and has events set for San Diego, Los Angeles and Denver. Obama spent time promoting his $447 billion jobs proposal, which has drawn opposition from Congressional Republicans and a mixed reaction from Democrats.

Pressuring Congress

“You need to put pressure on Congress” to pass the jobs bill, Obama told donors at his second event last night, which was at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. About 1,750 people contributed $100 each.

Going into the election, Obama told donors, “We are going to just keep on drawing a clear contrast” with Republicans.

Still, “2012 is going to be tough,” he said, because “a lot of people are discouraged, and a lot of people are disillusioned.”

That discouragement is evident in California, a reliably Democratic state in presidential elections which gave Obama 60.1 percent of the vote in 2008. For the first time since he took office, less than half of the state’s voters approve of his performance, according to a poll by the non-partisan Field Research Corporation.

Obama’s job approval rating fell to 46 percent, down from 54 percent in a June survey, according to the survey of 1,001 registered voters taken Sept. 1-12. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Unhappy Electorate

“We’ve got an electorate in California that is really deeply concerned and, frankly, unhappy about the economy,” said Rick Jacobs of Los Angeles, founder and chairman of The Courage Campaign, an umbrella group for activist organizations in California that generally support the Democratic Party’s agenda.

“Obama’s going to win California,” said Jacobs, who attended White House briefings Sept. 23 for California activists by Chief of Staff William Daley, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and top cabinet officials. The question is whether he’ll get the level of enthusiasm from supporters and activists that he had in 2008, he said.

Obama has been able to draw on donors amid the weak economy and declining poll numbers.

“I don’t think big donors to the party are influenced by short-term changes in poll numbers,” Linda L. Fowler, a professor of government at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. “If the slide persists and the numbers get lower, that is a different story.”

Fundraising Totals

The Obama campaign collected more than $86 million in the quarter ended June 30, surpassing the combined haul of the entire field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. The total includes money collected by the Democratic National Committee.

Last night in California’s Silicon Valley, John W. Thompson, chairman of Symantec Corp., the largest maker of computer-security software, hosts the president at his Woodside, California, home, where contributions start at $2,500 per couple.

“I’m back to report to you, my shareholders,” Obama said, citing the overhaul of the health-care system and financial regulations among his accomplishments.

“Even as we’ve gotten a huge amount done, there’s a lot of folks on our side who get dispirited because we didn’t get it all done in two and one-half years,” he said.

Facebook’s Sandberg Fundraiser

He ended the day in Atherton, California, at the home of Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc. About 50 people are expected, with contributions of $35,800 per couple.

The president is scheduled to make nine appearances during the three-day trip, seven of them devoted to raising money. Obama is making his 10th trip to California, his fourth to Colorado and third to Washington, since becoming president in January 2009.

Today, LinkedIn Corp., the professional social network with more than 120 million members worldwide, hosts the president at a town hall meeting at its Mountain View, California, headquarters, with the theme of “Putting America Back to Work.”

The president resumes fundraising for the remainder of the day, flying to San Diego for a fundraiser at a private home at La Jolla. Then it’s on to Los Angeles for a pair of fundraising events.

Obama flies to Denver tomorrow to make an appearance at a local high school to promote the jobs plan before returning to the capital.

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