Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has left Barack Obama’s re-election campaign to raise money for a super-political action committee backing the president and other Democrats, according to two people familiar with the decision.
Emanuel, who resigned his campaign post last month, has already raised $3 million for Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC founded by former White House officials, said one of the people, both of whom requested anonymity.
The news of Emanuel’s departure, reported earlier today by the Washington Post, comes as federal disclosure filings show Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney and his allies with more cash on hand than the president and his supporters.
Romney, the Republican National Committee and two super-political action committees backing him reported a combined bank account balance of $169 million on July 31. That compared with $107 million for Obama, the Democratic National Committee and Priorities USA Action.
Obama’s campaign won’t be out-raised, spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with the president to Charlotte today.
“We’re not going to bring a butter knife to a gunfight,” Psaki said.
Emanuel spoke to big donors at a brunch this morning in Charlotte, North Carolina -- one of three special activities planned for them during this week’s Democratic National Convention. The brunch was held at a private home and also included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and other elected officials as “special guests,” according to an invitation posted online by Politico.
Plea for Money
Last night, about 120 people from the same group of donors listened to Democratic strategist Paul Begala during a cocktail party near the convention arena. Begala, who has assisted Priorities with fundraising, stood atop a table and urged donors to write more checks.
“I don’t want you to give until it hurts. I want you to give until it feels good,” Begala later said in an interview that he had told them.
The super-donor activities conclude tomorrow night with a music bash after Obama’s gives his nomination acceptance speech. All three events are sponsored by Unity Convention 2012, a group that includes Priorities, as well as two super-PACs devoted to helping Senate and congressional candidates.
Emanuel, 52, a onetime White House chief of staff to Obama, said the president will give a “big, visionary” acceptance speech tomorrow night at the convention.
‘Where We’re Going’
Speaking at a Bloomberg News/Washington Post breakfast today in Charlotte, the Chicago mayor said Obama needs to tell the nation “this is where we’re going, and this is how we’re going to get there” on how he would lead during a second term.
“I wouldn’t give a speech on the role of government,” Emanuel said later. “This is not a political science class.”
The mayor also worked as an adviser under former President Bill Clinton, who headlines tonight’s convention speakers. Emanuel said he expects Clinton’s speech will have “a little more edge” than Obama’s.
Voters sometimes have a “hazy image” about the bipartisanship attributed to the Clinton administration, Emanuel said as the former chief of staff sought to reduce hard feelings about party bickering during Obama’s tenure.
“I don’t remember that bipartisanship” during those years, he said, referring to 1990s fiscal disputes that led to a shutdown of the government and fights over education and the environment.
Obama and Clinton have grown closer, and any distance in their relationship during the first part of Obama’s presidency is understandable, given the 2008 Democratic primary fight that Obama waged with Clinton’s wife, Emanuel said.
“President Obama beat Hillary Clinton,” he said. “Bill Clinton is a very protective husband and very competitive. It took him more time to get over it. He got over it.”
Obama made Clinton secretary of state. Clinton voted for Obama in 2008 and will do so again in 2012, Emanuel said.
“And he’s going to campaign vigorously for him wherever he wants,” he said.
Emanuel declined to predict odds for an Obama victory over Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and private-equity executive. He said the race is close and three presidential debates scheduled for October will be “consequential,” and especially influential for undecided voters.
“They are going to hold out to the very end to make a decision,” he said of a sliver of undecided voters who remain on the sidelines, typically less than 10 percent in polls.
Obama’s campaign has been “extremely successful in defining the differences between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama,” Emanuel said. “Mitt Romney has a real difficult problem between working-class, middle-class voters identifying with them,” he said.
In response, Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement the differences between Obama and the Republican “couldn’t be clearer,” adding that “middle-class Americans have been crushed in the Obama economy, and even President Obama has admitted that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago.”
Emanuel said Republicans aren’t “too happy with their nominee” and are already looking toward the 2016 presidential campaign, including the potential candidacy in that race of Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Emanuel predicted Republicans in the November election will lose seats in the U.S. House, where the party has a 240 to 190 advantage, with five vacancies.
“He may lose the majority, but he’ll lose seats either way,” Emanuel said of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
Asked why some voters only like Obama now instead of loving him, Emanuel said it was “better than the alternative” and that he didn’t agree with the premise of the question. He said any frustration was mostly directed at Obama’s inability to change the partisan bickering in Washington.
“They know he inherited a bad deal,” he said. “He has made changes and significant progress, but not enough that they have felt it.”
Emanuel, who wasn’t endorsed by most Chicago unions before his election in February 2011 to run the third-most-populous U.S. city, said the infrastructure projects he’s pushing are “putting a lot of people to work” in his city.
“So not all organized labor is upset,” he said, noting local and state government has “some difficult choices” to make when it comes to asking unions to give back contract provisions they were promised.
“You have to appreciate the perspective of a firefighter, a teacher, a police officer -- they got something agreed to,” he said. “And now we have to change that, because things were agreed to that everybody knew when they were at the table they could not keep.”
Emanuel is facing a possible teachers strike in just five days in Chicago and has cut back the duration of his visit to Charlotte, following his speech to the convention yesterday.