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Beleagured Obama goes west to raise funds

- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2013

With his popularity sinking and his faulty health care law endangering Democratic candidates, President Obama headed out of Washington on Sunday to show he's still an asset to his party — by raising campaign money.

Mr. Obama embarked on a three-day swing to the West Coast, where he'll raise millions for Democratic congressional candidates at stops in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Along the way, he'll mingle with celebrities such as former NBA star Magic Johnson and DreamWorks studio CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Some of the events will also rake in cash for the Democratic National Committee to trim its $16 million debt from last year's campaign. By the time Mr. Obama returns to Washington on Tuesday night, he'll have aided 17 fundraisers in the past month for Democrats.

Congressional Democratic candidates will need the extra campaign cash to fend off attacks by Republicans over the early and glaring flaws in Obamacare. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month showed Democrats tied with Republicans in a generic congressional matchup, erasing a 9-point lead that Democrats held over the GOP on Oct. 1.

Among the Democrats who've been made more vulnerable by the law's botched rollout and website problems is Sen. Kay R. Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat whose lead over potential GOP opponents has evaporated.

"He's obviously going to have to be raising money for these candidates, now that he's given an issue for Republicans to run on," said Republican pollster David Winston, who is close to Speaker John A. Boehner.

On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Obama headlined a fundraiser at the Seattle home of Sonya and Tom Campion. Mr. Campion is the founder of a clothing chain and he and his wife launched a foundation in 2005 to promote wilderness preservation and to end homelessness.

From there, Mr. Obama attended a fundraiser at the home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley. Tickets cost $20,000 per person, or $32,400 per couple.

An invitation to local Democrats said: "Our party, led by President Obama, is focused on building an economy that lasts — an economy that lifts up all Americans. Since we do not take money from special interests, corporate lobbyists and political-action committees, we must rely on dedicated Democrats like you."

Rep. Steve Israel, New York Democrat and chairman of the House Democrats' campaign committee, said the Republicans' election strategy of running against Obamacare is cynical because they are failing to provide an alternative.

"Their only playbook is to take us back to a system that didn't work, that led hardworking people into bankruptcy and gave insurance companies unchecked power to deny care and drop coverage," he wrote in an op-ed for CNN.

The administration said Friday it will delay the enrollment deadline for the second year of Obamacare from Oct. 14, 2014, to Nov. 15 to give insurers more time to evaluate the first year of the program and set rates. It also moves the enrollment date until after 2014 midterm elections.

Mr. Winston said Mr. Obama's broken promise about Americans keeping their health insurance plans under Obamacare is complicating the campaigns of Democrats who strongly supported the program, especially Senate candidates.

"They were trusting this president about what the policy was going to do," Mr. Winston said. "They took him at his word. This is a core argument as to why the health care bill should pass. Now that it doesn't exist, I think it creates a huge amount of problems for Democratic senators. It really gets to the infamous line from [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi: 'We'll have to read the bill to find out what's in it. That's where the problem for these senators ultimately is — did you read that bill completely so you could understand it prior to this vote?"

But before Republican congressional candidates get too optimistic about running against Obamacare in 2014, Mr. Winston cautioned that voters also want to hear the GOP's alternatives for making the health care system better.

"Republicans need to understand this," he said. "You have an electorate out there that really wants to hear your ideas. That's a tremendous opportunity, but it's got to be defined as an opportunity, not an outcome. That's an important distinction. The public is clearly at a point where they want to hear what we have to say. That's a great place for a political party to be. At least the ball's in our court."

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