One complaint that has been around privately (and occasionally publicly) since the beginning of the Obama administration is that they haven't paid enough attention to "donor maintenance." Most (not all, but most) big donors are egotistical and self-important, and part of the reason that they give money is to feel important,. They want to know that the candidate, in this case the president, knows them and values their input. It does seem that the administration has fallen down on this score, and as Jane Mayer explains, it's partly a result of Obama's staff not doing the things they should, and partly the fault of Obama himself. Apparently, he just can't stand this part of the job, and that led him to do things like not pose for pictures with donors. "It's as easy as falling off a log!" one fundraiser complained. "They just want a picture of themselves with the President that they can hang on the bathroom wall, so that their friends can see it when they take a piss." I think the President's distaste for this kind of thing speaks quite well of him as a human being, but there are some times when you just have to suck it up.
The resulting question is how much of the fact that Obama is trailing Romney so bad in fundraising can be explained by this sort of thing. I think the answer is, probably not much. Don't forget that Obama has in fact raised a spectacular amount of money for his re-election; according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama has raised $348 million for his campaign. That's quite a bit! The problem is that Romney is raising even more; for instance, in July Romney raised $100 million and Obama raised $75 million. And Romney's real advantage will come from the super PACs and 501c(4) organizations, who which rich donors can give unlimited sums. Nevertheless, reading the following passage made me think of an old story that illustrates the politician's art:
"There's been no thanks for anyone!" the major Democratic donor says. He adds that in 2008 he gave "multiple millions" to groups working to elect Obama. But, he notes, although he has attended various White House functions, and has met Obama on several occasions, "I don't think they have a clue who I am. I don't think they even know how much I gave." He says that he has been introduced twice to Jarrett, "and neither time did she remember who I am." Instead, he says, "she seemed to think she was blessing me by breathing in the same space." Despite repeated pitches, he has not yet given money to Priorities USA. In his view, the Obama White House has not followed the fundamental rule of donor maintenance, which he himself has practiced while fund-raising for other causes: "You have to suck up!" With Obama, he says, "I don't know if it's a personality thing, an ego thing, or an intellectual thing. I just don't get it. But people want to be kissed. They want to be thanked."
This guy seems pretty self-aware, but he still wants his ass kissed. And it's important to understand that even though there are some politicians who are just naturals at it?Bill Clinton supposedly has a near-magical ability to look you in the eye and in the space of five seconds convince you that you and he share a deep spiritual connection?it's also something that can be done even if you aren't a natural. So, on to my story.
It's 1992. I'm living in California, and my girlfriend at the time is working for a congressional candidate who is appearing at a joint fundraiser where the big draw is Diane Feinstein, who is running for Senate. Since I have a free afternoon, I agree to help out at the fundraiser, so I'm sitting at the check-in desk when Feinstein arrives late, after the event has begun. Trailing a couple of people, she comes over, introduces herself, and asks my name. I tell her, and she says, "Paul, I want you to meet my son." She turns and calls him over, then says to him, "Steve, [or whatever his name was], this is Paul Waldman." He says hello with a smile and shakes my hand, then Feinstein tells me it was great to see me, and they all walk in. I'm basking in a warm glow of good feeling when it occurs to me that I've just been worked by a pro.
The whole interaction took about 30 seconds, but by introducing me to her son, she created a situation in which she and I were linked as though we might have been old friends?not only did she seem to care enough to introduce me to someone in her family, she knew me better than he knew me (even if only by 10 seconds), which led to a little squirt of dopamine as my mind said, "Diane Feinstein knows me." It was brilliant, and if I had been not a kid in his early 20s living in a group house but someone with money to donate to her, had I been asked I probably would have.
And here's the thing: Diane Feinstein isn't a natural like Bill Clinton is. Yes, even in 1992 she had already been a politician forever and had run for and served in various offices a dozen times. But she isn't one of those people who just exudes charisma. I'm sure that the technique she used on me is something she has repeated in some form a zillion times before and since, and it isn't necessarily something she does intuitively. Being able to simulate a human connection between you and another person where it doesn't really exist, and being able to do it quickly, can be a talent, but it can also be a learned skill.
And here's the weird part: in writing this I tried to look up Feinstein's son's name and discovered that she doesn't have a son. Maybe that was her stepson? The internet does not reveal. If that was just a random staffer, I'm both horrified and deeply impressed. (On the other hand, maybe it was her daughter and I've been telling the story wrong for 20 years. Possible, but I don't think so.)
Anyhow, one of Mayer's points is that Obama doesn't really think all that highly of billionaires, which has prevented him from treating them with the admiration and deference they all believe they deserve. And I think that's great! We certainly ought to prefer that perspective to that of Mitt Romney, who seems to share the belief of most in his party that wealth is perfectly correlated with virtue. But Obama is also smart enough that he ought to be able to fake it, and fake it well.Politics of the United StatesMitt RomneyUnited StatesPoliticsDianne FeinsteinBarack ObamaBarack Obama presidential primary campaignPublic image of Mitt Romney
Tommy Thompson says you should just trust him.Former Wisconsin governor and current Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson got very, very wealthy as a lobbyist after he served as Wisconsin's governor and as Health and Human Services secretary under George W. Bush. How wealthy? Nobody but Thompson and his accountant know for sure. Just like Mitt Romney, he doesn't think "you people" deserve to know.
[A]t an event later on Wednesday at Husco International Inc. in Waukesha, Thompson was adamant. "When I was governor and I was employed by the people of the state of Wisconsin, I released my tax returns," he said.
"But I have been in the business world and the question is, 'Am I going to release my tax returns?' The answer is no."
"I pay 31 percent of my gross revenue into taxes. That's much more than Congresswoman Baldwin is," Thompson said on "Upfront with Mike Gousha" on WISN-TV (Channel 12) in Milwaukee.
"That is what I pay. That's what I paid this year, that's what I paid last year and that's a higher percentage than Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Congresswoman Baldwin. I'm the highest and I think that's enough. I can put it out there and show everybody that I paid 31 percent of my gross income to taxes. That's a lot of money."
Thompson did not provide proof of the 31 percent and repeated he would not release his returns.
On the other hand, Democrat Tammy Baldwin released 10 years of her tax returns back in May, demonstrating that she's paid an effective tax rate of about 20 percent. Baldwin, obviously, has nothing to hide. So what's in Thompson's tax returns that he's so reluctant to share?
Politico's reporting Akin is withdrawing, while the Wall St. Journal reports that he's staying. Is he gone? We should know any minute. Obviously, Democrats would like to see him stay (because it greatly improves McCaskill's chances) but if he does leave, he presents another problem for Republicans: namely, that Akin clearly represents the far-fringe Tea partiers who voted for him. Does his withdrawal depress their base turnout?
Fearing a likely election victory is now in doubt, Republican leaders and candidates on Monday called on Missouri Rep. Todd Akin to abandon his bid for a crucial Senate seat because of his suggestion that women's bodies can avert pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape.''
Mr. Akin had been running ahead in polls of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is widely considered the most endangered Senate incumbent. But were he to lose, the GOP's chances of recapturing a majority in the Senate and enacting a sweeping conservative agenda would be reduced. Republicans control the House and hope to overturn a 53-47 Democratic majority in the Senate.
The high stakes in the race prompted an unusually public campaign by Republicans to persuade Mr. Akin to step aside, despite his victory in a hard-fought primary just two weeks ago. If Mr. Akin does not quit the race by 5 p.m. Tuesday, he would have to seek a court order to do so. Mr. Akin suggested Monday he had no plans to drop out.
Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), who leads the Republican Party effort to win Senate seats, called Mr. Akin Monday, according to a Republican official. Mr. Akin was told that if he stays in, "he is putting not just this seat but the GOP's prospects for a Senate majority at great risk," the official said.
UPDATE: TPM reports that Akin says he's staying in:
Appearing on Gov. Mike Huckabee's radio show on Tuesday, Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said he was indeed staying in the race.
"I want to make things absolutely clear," Akin told Huckabee. "We are going to continue with this race for the United States Senate.
Akin added that his campaign is seeing a "tremendous outpouring of support" from grassroots organizations.
Rep. Steve KingI should have known that the official congressional psychopath would quickly weigh in on Akin's own offensive comments. While the Republican Party works feverishly to convince people that they do not, in fact, agree with Todd Akin and his ridiculous theories on how womenfolk's bodies work, Steve King says as far as he knows, Akin might be right:
King told an Iowa reporter he?s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.Really? A sitting congressman?and one who's always been quite eager to pass legislation regarding what women can or cannot do with their very naughty babymaking parts, no less?has never once heard of child pregnancies from rape or incest? And even goes farther than Akin himself did, by claiming that he's never heard of such a thing happening from statutory rape, suggesting that it is the law itself that prevents such a thing from happening? It's not often I'm impressed by congressional ignorance at this point, but I think all of America has to tip their hats to Mr. King on this one. This one is impressively stupid.
?Well I just haven?t heard of that being a circumstance that?s been brought to me in any personal way,? King told KMEG-TV Monday, ?and I?d be open to discussion about that subject matter.?
I would also like to introduce Rep. Steve King to?let me check the name, here?ah, a Rep. Steve King, coincidentally also a congressional Republican from Iowa and who shares Mr. King's home, office, family and bank account, who said this not more than a few goddamn effing weeks ago:
[I]f there's a sexual predator out there who has impregnated a young girl, say a 13 year old girl, and it happens in America more times than you and I like to think, that sexual predator can pick that girl off the playground at the middle school and haul her across the state line and force her to get an abortion to eradicate the evidence of his crime ...As a possible defense of Mr. King, it is entirely possible that he was lying through his stupid psychopathic teeth either that time or this. He tends to do that.
Now, this could go one of two ways. One, the Republican Party might quickly distance themselves from Steve King, as they did with Akin, since such profound ignorance does not go well with the Republican attempts to constantly legislate on all the things of which King is so goddamn ignorant. Or two, they could ignore it as usual, because the kind of batshit things that Akin and now King are saying are not, in fact, far from the official party line on these things, and is in fact one of the common suppositions behind the so-called personhood amendments Republicans have been pushing across the country.
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Addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket moves Wisconsin from leans Obama to toss up. [...]
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Todd Akin reiterates that he's staying in the Missouri Senate race. [...]
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