Obama Hits New York Donors Again to Fill Coffers for Midterms

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President Barack Obama marks his sixth straight month visiting New York to raise campaign money for congressional Democrats, who in key races don’t want him campaigning beside them.

The president returned to the nation’s financial capital for three events today, including one in suburban Connecticut.

“New York has always been the center of gravity among centers of gravity,” said Representative Steve Israel of New York, who leads House Democrats’ campaign arm.

Obama, who has no public events or speeches scheduled during the roughly nine-hour trip, attended two Democratic National Committee events in New York City, one for about 25 people donating up to $32,400 and a reception with about 250 people, according to the DNC.

He then flew in a helicopter to Greenwich, Connecticut, landing on a polo field and heading to the $10 million house of real estate investor Richard Richman, where is raising money for Senate Democrats.

The president is lending his time and his fundraising prowess to the party, which is trying to hang onto its Senate majority in the Nov. 4 election, four weeks away.

Tonight’s event in the Conyers Farm development in Greenwich is the 11th Obama has done for the 2014 mid-term elections for Senate Democrats, according to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The tickets cost $10,000 to $32,400, according to the DSCC.

The “aura” around Obama as president can encourage donations, letting Democrats raise money they couldn’t get without him, said Stanley Renshon, a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York who studies political psychology.

Feeling Special

“To be in the same room, to feel special, even if you’re paying for the privilege, is something that a lot of people like to do,” Renshon said. “Because it makes them feel like they’re important. And the tradeoff is they’re buying their own importance.”

At White Street Restaurant in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, Obama drew applause from the audience when he talked about raising the minimum wage and improvement in the U.S. economy during his presidency. His remarks near Wall Street about minimizing risks for the banking sector were met with silence.

Obama urged Democrats to vote, repeating a line he uses regularly that Democrats have a “congenital” disease that prevents them from casting ballots as faithfully as Republicans in mid-term elections.

The Richmans’ house is a familiar setting for Obama, who attended a DNC fundraiser there in 2010 and described Richman and his wife, Ellen, as “some of my earliest supporters.”

They each gave Obama $2,000 during his successful 2004 run for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. Both Richmans, though, donated to Hillary Clinton, then a senator from New York, in 2007 when she battled for the Democratic presidential nomination before they gave to Obama, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Richmans have given Democratic candidates and committees at least $1.3 million. His company, the Richman Group, describes itself as one of the country’s 10 largest property owners.

Senate Battle

Republicans need a net gain of six seats in November to claim a Senate majority. Many of the closest Senate races are in states Obama lost in both his 2008 and 2012 presidential races - - such as Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska -- where a personal appearance by him may hurt rather than help his party’s cause.

That’s left Obama focused largely on raising money in urban areas, far from battleground Senate races.

Aides said the president isn’t staying away from campaigning.

“We’re in that season of the American political calendar where the president and others are spending more time than they otherwise would on the campaign trail,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters traveling with Obama. “One of the key ways that the president can benefit Democratic candidates up and down the ballot is by helping the campaign committees.”

For now, Obama’s sustained campaign activity is collecting cash for Democrats.

“I’m sure it’s tiresome to do these money riffs, but on the other hand, he’s the center of attention,” Renshon said. “They’re all reaching for their checkbooks. And it’s a form of validation for him and the view he holds of himself.”