Obama Seeks to Draw Donors With Bill Clinton’s Popularity

Obama Seeks to Entice Donors by Using Bill Clinton’s Popularity
President Barack Obama talks with President Bill Clinton in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 14, 2010. Photographer: Pete Souza/The Whitehouse

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama closed the book on their 2008 rivalry for the first in a series of joint appearances by the 42nd and 44th U.S. presidents aimed at filling Obama’s campaign treasury.

Four years ago, Clinton dismissed Obama’s presidential candidacy a “fairy tale” while campaigning for his wife, Hillary Clinton, in the Democratic primaries. Last night, he lauded Obama’s accomplishments in office, including rescuing the economy from the worst recession since the 1930s, winning passage of a landmark health-care law and bailing out General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

“If you go back 500 years, whenever a country’s financial system collapses, it takes between five and 10 years to get back to full employment,” Clinton told contributors who were gathered at the McLean, Virginia, home of his political strategist Terry McAuliffe. “He’s beating the clock.”

The Obama campaign is seeking to entice more donors with Clinton and to tap his fundraising network for both his campaign committee and the independent political action committee, or super-PAC, supporting the re-election effort.

Obama’s advisers are seeking to keep the president’s fundraising advantage over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who’s benefitting from well-funded independent committees. Clinton’s stature has risen since he left office, with a poll last year by the Pew Research Center in Washington showing 67 percent of Americans view him favorably.

Reminder on Economy

Obama sought to remind his supporters at yesterday’s event, which raised about $2 million, of the U.S. economic success under the nation’s last Democratic president.

“I ran for president because we had lost our way since Bill Clinton was in office,” Obama said, praising his predecessor who presided over an economy that added 22.7 million jobs during his two terms and a federal budget that went from deficit to surplus.

Clinton echoed Obama’s campaign message that Republicans would return to policies that led to the financial crisis.

“He’s got an opponent who basically wants to do what they did before, on steroids,” Clinton said, referring to Romney. “The result you’ll get is the same, on steroids.”

Both men defended the 2010 health-care law that was one of Obama’s signature policy victories. The law is being challenged in the Supreme Court with a decision due in late June, less than five months before the presidential election.

Obama called the law which Romney has vowed to repeal if elected, “the single most important thing we can do to liberate our businesses, to make sure our workers are getting wages, and to free ourselves from crippling debt.”

Cash Advantage

While Obama had a 10-to-1 campaign cash advantage over Romney at the start of this month, that ratio drops to almost two-to-one when the Republican super-PACs are added to Romney’s arsenal, according to campaign finance reports.

At the end of March, the Obama campaign committee, the main super-PAC that supports him, and the Democratic National Committee had $133.6 million in cash compared to $73.6 million held by Romney, his main support super-PACs, and the Republican National Committee, the disclosure records show.

Tickets for yesterday’s dinner for 80 people were $20,000 per person. The reception, for about 500 people, required a $1,000 donation, according to a campaign official who wasn’t authorized to discuss the events on the record.

Bill and Hillary Clinton’s network of political donors have been holding off on multi-million dollar contributions to his super-PACs until they see the core group of Chicagoans who backed the president four years ago start donating more.

Through March, only 12 of Obama’s 532 top fundraisers had donated to Priorities USA Action, the super-PAC created to support his re-election. Priorities has raised only about $9 million compared with a combined $80 million brought in by the two main super-PACs dedicated to defeating Obama: American Crossroads, formed by Karl Rove, and Restore Our Future, a group backing Romney.

The President will hold his first official campaign rallies in Columbus, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia, both in battleground states, on May 5.

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