First, the change. And now, the panic!

When I read that Bill Clinton was helping out in the Obama White House -- both as an adviser and as a fund raiser, I have to say I was startled, as there's no love lost there.

Because of the polls and the sour mood among the voters, the left is generally freaking out; there's talk in Salon about pushing the panic button. Some insiders are saying that "Expectations were set too high after 2008":

"The bar for change was set inordinately high by the tone of the presidential campaign," said McCaskill, an early supporter of Obama's who endorsed him over then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in January 2008.

Obama's long-running primary battle with Clinton captivated Democrats across the country, who rallied to Obama's message of change. Turnout for the general election was the highest among eligible voters since 1968.

Well, they got to have their change and now they get to eat it too.

Except they don't like it.

Yesterday I chatted with an old friend in Philadelphia. The man is well-connected and knows everyone of consequence in town. A loyal Northeast Republican, he lives in an upper-end condo, and during the last election, his neighbors were all solidly pro-Obama, so he had to endure constant ridicule for wearing McCain buttons. (He says it got pretty rough, too, which I do not doubt.) Yet he says that now, all of these same very wealthy, erstwhile Obama supporters just hate Barack Obama. He mentioned a variety of reasons for their anger, and Obama's Mideast policy seems to rank high as an irritant.

Bear in mind that this guy's neighbors are the sort of people who can normally be depended upon to pull out their checkbooks at Democratic functions.

If they hate Obama, the Democrats are in dire straits.

The more I thought it over, the more I wondered whether this news from Philadelphia was an aberration. So I asked myself "Could the same thing be happening in New York where the big money is?"

Wow, is it ever!

Just check out this detailed analysis at Politico, headlined, "Democrats fear end of New York gravy train":

A perfect storm of events -- the recession, Wall Street anger at Washington, donors who feel ignored by the White House and interest group dissatisfaction -- has Democrats bracing for a brutal fundraising period and fearful of losing dominance in longtime donor stronghold and megarich New York.

While the exact quarterly figures won't be known until after the July 15 filing deadline, a number of Democratic campaign insiders said the past few months were a mighty struggle to raise cash for candidates.

It's a humbling moment for Democratic moneymakers in the richest city in the world, an uncomfortable and unfamiliar position for New York fundraisers after a long ride on the gravy train. Beyond a free-flowing financial market that managed to rebound after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, there were 16 flush years of having a Clinton family member in a position of power and working the Big Apple donor base hard.

Things are different now. While most Democrats blame the economy and anger from Wall Street for the fundraising predicament, President Barack Obama, whose own donor model was low-dollar contributors and Internet contributors over high-dollar types, has headlined just one major New York event so far this year, for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

And several fundraisers said they knew of very few major events in the Hamptons -- the summer playground for the wealthy that was long worked by the Clintons, who used it for simultaneous socializing, vacationing and rainmaking for the national party committees.

Some Democrats called it the worst period for fundraising they've experienced in the New York area since 1994, the infamous midterm cycle after Bill Clinton was elected president that quickly became a lightning rod for Republicans and a disappointment to some of his own backers.

Not only has Obama blown it by ignoring the wealthy liberals in the Hamptons, but he's sidelined the Clintons, who used to milk them:

the sense that New York's star has diminished began in the months after Hillary Clinton accepted her new assignment as secretary of state, physically removing her from the local political scene and diminishing the Empire State's clout in the process.

"For the Clintons, these donors were part of their social circle," said one Washington Democrat, citing a style that worked but also had its drawbacks (like the Lincoln Bedroom scandals). "They vacationed with them, they had dinners with them. That's not the case for Barack."

It actually goes deeper than that for Obama -- he is mindful, insiders say, of the current realities that say hanging out with Wall Streeters or even having official meetings with them could be used against him.

And he's never taken to the Hamptons scene -- a locale so closely yoked to the Clintons in the minds of many donors that he could only suffer by comparison.

But the president's different style from his most recent predecessors in engaging donors -- and his clear lack of interest in catering to the rich class of donors -- is having an impact.

It just shows how green the man is politically. He's a newbie at the game, and he's been unable to moderate his far-left, openly anti-business tone.

To say nothing of his anti-Israel tone. It doesn't look like that has helped him in New York:

It isn't just Wall Street that's unsettled.

"Every interest group is angry" at either Congress or the White House, said one New York Democratic insider involved with fundraising.

That has included a smattering of Jewish Democratic fundraisers, the sources said, who are unhappy with the administration's approach to Israel and with some members of the state's congressional delegation as well.

One prominent Jewish fundraiser insisted donors in that group are suffering from the same fatigue as everyone else, and that's why some are sitting out this cycle.

But another said, "There was meeting of Jewish business leaders with a [New York] elected official, and the official said, 'I'm working behind the scenes to push the administration on Israel.' And one of the people at the meeting said afterward, 'Next time I'll work behind the scenes to support you.'"

Dan Senor, a former Bush administration official in Iraq who's active in the Jewish political community as well as Republican fundraising circles, said an event he co-hosted last week for six New York House hopefuls included some Democratic donors.

"There were people who said, 'I've never written a check to a Republican in my life' who were there," he said, although he declined to name names. He also noted that he's hearing from some Jewish Democratic donors who "are either sitting on their hands or giving to Republicans." [Emphasis added.]

Things are so bad that some Republicans are actually showing up in New York to take advantage of the situation:
Sen. John Cornyn, of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has been in New York roughly every six weeks and is a familiar face at the Regency Hotel power-breakfast circuit on Park Avenue.
Hey, if I were in the Democrats' position, I'd be pushing the panic button too.

But what form will that take?

There's still plenty of time between now and November.

posted by Eric on 07.16.10 at 11:48 AM


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