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POLITICS: White House

Obama launches fundraising blitz at delicate time for his agenda

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Photo - MIAMI, FL - MARCH 29:  President Barack Obama greets people during an event at PortMiami on March 29, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The president spoke about road and bridge construction during the event at the port in Miami, where he also toured a new tunnel project.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 29: President Barack Obama greets people during an event at PortMiami on March 29, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The president spoke about road and bridge construction during the event at the port in Miami, where he also toured a new tunnel project. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Politics,White House,Brian Hughes

It's a classic conundrum for presidents: how to balance raising political cash with governing.

But the launch of President Obama's 2014 fundraising blitz this week carries greater-than-normal risks for this White House. The president will be bashing Republicans to help raise money and fire up Democrats even as he seeks to woo GOP lawmakers who have been resisting his ambitious legislative agenda.

For all the attention Obama's so-called charm offensive has received, his latest sprint to raise cash in San Francisco and Silicon Valley is all about the overarching goal of holding the Senate and flipping the House to Democratic control -- and requires taking shots at the GOP.

The two days of fundraising that starts Wednesday will include exclusive events costing as much as $32,500 per person, which will help feed the Republican portrayal of Obama as more interested in campaigning than working across the aisle to produce results.

"This president has obliterated the distinction between politics and legislating," said Frank Donatelli, political director for former President Reagan. "It used to be, in at least the first year, politics took a back seat to legislating. He's not the chairman of the Democratic National Committee."

Obama will start his fundraising blitz with cocktails at the home of billionaire asset manager Tom Steyer before a $32,500-per-person dinner at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty. He'll host a brunch Thursday before having lunch with Levi-Strauss heir John Goldman where food and a photo with the president costs $20,000 per couple.

The White House says such fundraising is just part of Obama's job description.

"Well, the president has some responsibilities as the head of the Democratic Party to support other Democrats -- I don't think that's particularly surprising," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "And I don't think that the president views those two activities as being in conflict."

The president plans to headline 14 fundraisers to raise cash for Democratic congressional candidates this year, including 10 out-of-town events that will be evenly divided between the House and Senate campaign committees. The remaining four events will be in Washington.

The prodigious fundraising schedule is Obama's attempt to succeed where his predecessors failed. Midterm elections are traditionally a struggle for incumbent presidents and their parties -- as was the case for Obama and Democrats in the 2010 elections. According to Democrats familiar with the fundraising schedule, Obama will head to areas where he can raise the most money and draw the largest crowds, avoiding any venues where he might be more of a detriment to the Democratic candidate.

Next week's events won't be without controversy. Environmentalists plan to protest outside the Gettys' home in an attempt to persuade Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would bring oil from Canada to refineries in Texas.

And others said Obama faces potential backlash from GOP lawmakers already battling him over issues such as immigration and gun control.

"However much money he raises for the Democratic Party," Donatelli warned, "it's at the expense of his agenda on the Hill."

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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