POLITICS: PennAve

Obama's fundraising pace beats George W. Bush, but lags Bill Clinton

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White House,Barack Obama,Bill Clinton,Campaign Finance,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,George W. Bush

President Obama may seem like he's at a breakneck fundraising pace, racing to help his party down the ballot ahead of the midterm elections, but he's still far behind Bill Clinton's second-term money round-up.

Obama's recent fundraising tour de force -- including three events last week and two in Texas amid the border crisis in the same state and two more in New York City tonight - is turning heads and attracting a slew headlines and negative press, especially because the Texas trip didn't include a visit to the border.

But the second-term presidential money chase isn't unprecedented.

It's true that Obama has far outpaced his predecessor, George W. Bush, in the number of times he has headlined fundraising events in his second term. But Clinton far eclipses Obama's numbers. By July 16 in each president's second year of his second term, Clinton had participated in 127 fundraisers compared to Obama's 72 and Bush's paltry 45.

Brendan Doherty, a political science professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and the author of book The Rise of the President's Permanent Campaign, keeps close tabs on presidents' travel and fundraising.

“A story with the theme 'Obama is outpacing Bush' doesn't tell the full story, since both lag behind Clinton's pace in 1997 and 1998,” Doherty said.

While Doherty doesn't track the total fundraising haul each president brought in during his second term, he says Clinton had quite a few reasons to hustle back in 1997 and 1998. He was trying to help the Democratic National Committee retire debt from his 1996 re-election and help Democrats win back control of the House and Senate from the Republicans, after the party lost the majority in the House on his watch for the first time in four decades.

Impeachment was also looming over his head and he thought a congressional victory for his party might help head off proceedings against him that were brewing on Capitol Hill. Ultimately, he was unsuccessful in helping Democrats win back either chamber and was impeached by the House of Representatives in December of 1998 but acquitted by the Senate two months later.

Obama also has a lot a stake – namely, his second term agenda. Republicans currently control the House and need just six more seats in the Senate to win a majority there.

Last fall's botched healthcare.gov roll-out gave Republicans an edge in the midterms and capped a year of mishaps and scandals ranging from the Edward Snowden revelations about massive U.S. government surveillance to the IRS targeting conservative groups, Justice Department spying on journalists, to a series of foreign policy headaches in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt that have continued this year.

The struggles have taken a toll on Obama's approval ratings, which is making him a liability on the campaign trail for vulnerable Democratic incumbents in conservative-leaning states, such as Arkansas, North Carolina and Louisiana.

Even Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat up for re-election in Colorado, which went for Obama in 2012 by a 51.2 percent margin, decided to stay back in D.C. when the president was in his state last week holding a fundraiser that would help his and other Senate Democrats' re-elections.

But that didn't stop Obama for singing Udall's praises at the event and exhorting donors to feel the same sense of urgency in this race that they did during his own first election to president.

Obama noted that Democrats have not been very good at off-year elections and wondered whether midterms are not flashy enough.

“Not enough celebrities involved?” he said.

He asked the donors to “feel the same urgency about this race -- about Mark’s race, about all the Senate races.”

“Feel that same urgency as you felt about my race back in 2008,” Obama said.

The events in New York City Thursday night will benefit the Democratic National Committee and the House Majority PAC.

During Bush's the last half of Bush's second term, he took a beating for the deteriorating situation in Iraq, which began to turn around with the 2007 surge. Democrats won control of the House and Senate in 2006, making life even more difficult for Bush's final years in office.

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