Michelle Obama in the Bay Area for two fundraisers

June 14, 2011 7:22:04 PM PDT
First lady Michelle Obama spent Tuesday picking up campaign cash in Berkeley and San Francisco for her husband's re-election campaign.

Compared to her husband, Mrs. Obama is better liked and less expensive to meet. At Berkeley's Claremont Hotel, 200 guests paid $1,000 to $2,500 a pop for breakfast with the first lady. The Bay Bridge then shut down for her motorcade over to San Francisco; 400 guests paid $2,500 for lunch in the Julia Morgan ballroom of the Merchants Exchange building.

No cameras were allowed, but John Burton, chair of the California Democratic Party, was there saying the first lady was not just raising money, she was also recruiting supporters.

"Not only involved in contributing, but involved in working on the campaign's phone banking, some of them willing to go to battleground states, etc.," Burton said.

The chair of the California Republican Party, Tom Del Beccaro, says fundraising raises questions of priorities.

"The real question is, are people going to perceive him as fighting for their jobs or his job," Del Beccaro said. "Remember, Bush Sr. lost because people didn't have the perception he was fighting for them. That's the real danger for the Obamas at this point."

The cost of Mrs. Obama's trip to the Bay Area is split between the campaign and taxpayers. The White House says it's playing by the same rules as other administrations.

The first lady's Bay Area fundraising pales in comparison to her husband's. President Barack Obama's dinner last April was nearly $36,000 per person.

ABC7 political analyst Prof. Bruce Cain believes there are signs the Obama campaign will be relying more on this old-fashioned face-to-face fundraising, rather than the Internet.

"Because I think there is genuine ambivalence about the Obama record among people that had very high hopes and that makes it hard to go back to them," Cain said.

Cain also says that the president has reached out to Wall Street and has appointed a man with strong Wall Street ties to be his chief of staff. That seems to indicate, according to Cain, a return to a more traditional type of fundraising where you get a lot of money from fewer people. He says the president will have a much harder time repeating the Internet fundraising success of 2008.

Democratic strategist Eric Jaye says that may be true now, but it won't stay that way.

"When you put the president up against his Republican opponent, I think it's going to really energize our base and I think they're going to give money, however they give money," Jaye said.

Jaye says that's coming, but it's the conservative side that seems more energized in opposition to the president. Del Beccaro says it's the economy.

"I think he's going to go wherever he can get money at this point, and if the numbers stay this way, that's going to be increasingly harder over time for him to do that," Del Beccaro said.


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