President Barack Obama courted donors in Colorado and California as he sought to retain his edge in the money race with Republican Mitt Romney and the independent political groups supporting him.
Obama’s two-day trip outside of Washington, bracketed by official events in Colorado and Iowa, includes four fundraisers for his campaign and the Democratic National Committee that will take in more than $2.5 million.
The president used the first day of his trip to go on the offensive against Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, saying he and Republicans in Congress are offering the failed economic policies that led to the worst recession in more than seven decades.
“There is nothing new about these ideas,” Obama told about 550 donors yesterday at a Denver hotel, where general admission tickets were sold for $250 to $500 each. “It’s the same old stuff they’ve been peddling for years.”
National polls show Obama and Romney locked in a close race for the White House in November’s election. Part of that contest is the competition for money. Romney has started to raise funds jointly with the Republican National Committee, letting donors write bigger checks. Romney and the Republicans said they brought in $40.1 million last month, while Obama and the Democratic National Committee said they raised $43.6 million.
Through April 30 of this year, Obama raised $222 million to $100 million for Romney, and the Democratic National Committee brought in $169 million to $135 million for the Republicans. Obama had 12 times more money in the bank than Romney, $115.2 million compared with $9.2 million.
Still, some Democrats are expressing concern about the impact of so-called super political action committees supporting Romney, which can take in unlimited donations from corporations and individuals, and pro-Republican nonprofits that keep their donors secret, such as Crossroads GPS, which is spending $25 million on anti-Obama ads.
“Republicans are in much better shape this year than they were four years ago,” Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, said in a telephone interview. “It’s clear the Obama campaign won’t have the kind of overwhelming advantage that it had in 2008.”
Obama already has held more fundraisers for his re-election -- 138 since April 2011 -- than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton during their second presidential campaigns.
‘Out the Window’
Democratic strategist Peter Fenn said Democrats can’t take any risks. “In my view, the rules of the game are out the window in this race,” he said. “Usually you don’t really begin to pour it on until the fall. We’re pouring it on now.”
Obama was soliciting donors at two events last night in California, the most populous U.S. state and one that has provided almost one-fifth of his campaign funds, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based campaign-research group.
The first California fundraiser was a dinner held at the home of philanthropists Lisa and Douglas Goldman of Atherton. Goldman, the son of Levi Strauss & Co. heirs Richard and Rhoda Goldman, is chief executive officer of Certain Software Inc., which makes meeting- and event-planning software.
About 60 supporters paid $35,800 per person, or about $2.1 million, to attend the dinner. The guest list included Susan Wojcicki, a senior vice president at Google Inc.; Tim Westergren, a co-founder of Internet radio provider Pandora Media Inc.; and actor Don Cheadle. The event featured a performance by David Crosby and Graham Nash of the folk-rock music group Crosby, Stills and Nash.
‘Steer That Ship’
“We’re beginning to steer that ship in the right direction,” Obama said with regard to the economy. And, as for foreign policy, “we continue to be the agenda setters,” he said during the public portion of his remarks at the dinner.
About 1,100 people were expected to attend a later event at Redwood City’s Fox Theatre, where singer Ben Harper was scheduled to perform, with tickets starting at $250.
Both campaigns are preparing for a close election. A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 49 percent of the public favoring Obama and 46 percent favoring Romney, within the margin of error. Those surveyed said their chief concern was the economy, with Obama getting a 47 percent approval rating, tied with expectations for Romney.
The May 17-20 poll of 1,004 adults has a margin of error for the full survey of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Address to Cadets
Earlier yesterday, Obama delivered the commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he vowed the U.S. will maintain its military superiority amid defense spending cuts to create a “leaner” force as conflicts end in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For the first time in your lives -- and thanks to Air Force personnel who did their part -- Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country,” Obama told the 1,073 cadets in the academy’s class of 2012. “We’ve put al-Qaeda on the path to defeat. And you are the first graduates since 9/11 who can see how we’ll end the war in Afghanistan.”
The war’s end will ease the burden on U.S. forces and their families and “make our military stronger,” Obama told the cadets, saying they will face fewer deployments, more training and greater preparation for their missions.
After another fundraiser in California today, Obama is scheduled to make his third visit of the year to Iowa. In Newton, he will talk about the economy and continue to push Congress to finish his to-do list, including the renewal of clean-energy tax credits to boost the wind power industry, according to a White House news release.
He also planned a campaign rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
Iowa and Colorado are among the nine states that switched to supporting Obama in 2008 after backing Republican President George W. Bush in 2004, and will be battlegrounds in the November presidential vote.