WASHINGTON — As his reelection campaign heats up, President Barack Obama is attending fundraisers about one of every four days, with experts saying he is working to raise a whopping billion dollars to stay in the White House.
“There are a lot of people who are still hurting all across the country, a lot of people here in Florida, a lot of people everywhere,” Obama told a small group of supporters the other day.
He was not speaking at a soup kitchen. It was at the luxurious Orlando home of Dallas Mavericks basketball guard Vince Carter — to just 70 guests who paid $30,000 a plate to hear him speak.
And the fundraiser at Carter’s home was the third of the day for the Democratic president, who is in fundraising overdrive.
Eight months before the presidential election, the haste to raise campaign funds risks blurring the message of a president who champions the middle class against Republican opponents, particularly multimillionaire Mitt Romney.
Kareem Crayton, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina, says Obama “needs to find every dollar that he can get, because it’s pretty clear that this campaign is going to involve two candidates that will need to have a billion dollars.”
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, eager to portray the president as independent of big money donors, says, “Our average donation is $55, and 98 percent are $250 or less.”
Most of the campaign’s money came from “more than 1.3 million Americans,” Messina said.
Other fundraisers by the president are not intended for the masses.
Since February 15, Obama participated in 11 fundraising meetings that returned more than $12 million for his campaign.
In just eight days this month, big donors contributed about half the $29 million Obama received in all of January. Other campaign contributions were collected from events attended by his wife and Vice President Joe Biden.
Much of the money pays for advertising that is crucial to winning an election.
This year, the race for campaign financing is extra-tough after the Supreme Court removed many of the restrictions on political contributions in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The 2010 ruling said corporations, unions and individuals are unlimited as a matter of free speech to contribute to “super political action committees” that fund candidates.
Romney has received more than $35 million from “Super PACs” since his campaign started.
Super PACs have paid for some of the ferociously negative television ads during the Republican primary race.
The Obama campaign announced early this month that the president plans to use one of the Super PACs to “fight on equal terms” against Republican candidates.
Previously, Obama has said he opposes Super PACS for the influence they give well-financed special interests in choosing who gets elected.
Some Super PAC Democrats have received large donations from Hollywood movie stars, but they still trail the best-funded Republicans in campaign contributions.
Obama should follow a “delicate” strategy to maximize the donations he receives, Crayton said.
“He’s going to want to make the argument that his opponent is on the side of defending the people with 1% kind of wealth,” the political science professor said. “In order to do that, he can’t be seen on camera talking to some of these very same people.”