Stung by plunging approval numbers at a low point in his presidency, President Barack Obama is urging donors to buck up while making a thread-the-needle appeal for bipartisanship with Republicans even as he calls for replacing the House GOP majority and holding his Democratic edge in the Senate.
Obama is seeking to gain back his political standing in the aftermath of his administration’s botched launch of health care enrollment by defining himself as a pragmatic victim of tea party conservatives. At the same time he is casting his policies on the economy and immigration as popular remedies that could win bipartisan support.
“Right now in this country there is at least one faction of one party that has decided they are more interested in stopping progress than advancing it, and aren’t interested in compromise or engaging in solving problems and more interested in scoring points for the next election,” he told Democratic donors in San Francisco on Monday.
For Obama, the call for compromise is a veiled olive branch that also disguises a threat.
“What we’re looking for is not the defeat of another party, what we’re looking for is the advancement of ideas that are going to vindicate those values that are tried and true,” he said at a fundraiser Sunday with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi seated among about 60 high-dollar donors. “But to do that we’re going to need Nancy Pelosi as speaker, because there’s just a lot of work to be done right now.”
Less than 24 hours later, pressing for an overhaul of immigration laws, Obama extended a hand to House Republican Speaker John Boehner.
“Speaker Boehner is hopeful we can make progress” on immigration, Obama said Monday in San Francisco. “I believe the Speaker is sincere, I believe he genuinely wants to get it done.”
The diverging messages reflect Obama’s dual desire to win a legislative victory even as he performs his duties as leader of the Democratic Party.
“I’m not a particularly ideological person,” he said at a Seattle fundraiser Sunday.
Raising money in Washington and California, states he won handily in his two elections, Obama faced protests and hecklers from his liberal flank. During his immigration remarks in San Francisco, he was interrupted by a protester standing immediately behind him. The young man condemned the Obama administration’s record number of deportation of immigrants who are in the country illegally.
“Stop deportation, stop deportation!” the young man yelled.
Obama argued he is required to follow the law and said that could only change through the democratic process.
“But it won’t be as easy as just shouting,” he said. “It requires us lobbying and getting it done.”
Later, as he arrived at a fundraiser for Democrats at the San Francisco Jazz Center, a crowd of about 200 protested at a nearby corner against approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The administration has yet to make a decision on the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
Obama’s money tour comes after Democrats posted a successful fundraising month in October, benefiting from the partial government shutdown. Polls showed much of the public blamed Republicans for the inability to pay for government operations for 16 days.
House Republicans say they expect to post better numbers in November than in October, in part because of the botched start of the health care law’s enrollment period and Obama’s misleading claim that all insurance holders would be able to keep their insurance. Obama has sought to correct that with an administrative fix.
In the aftermath of the disastrous rollout of the heath care website, public opinion of Obama has sunk. Obama’s approval rating in most polling is around 40 percent these days. And an ABC News-Washington Post poll showed that 52 percent of the public viewed him unfavorably, the first time he was viewed unfavorably by a majority in their polling.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said donors, in their private sessions with Obama, do not express concern over his poll ratings, but do inquire about the status of his initiatives, particularly the health care website.
Democratic Party officials say there is no evidence that the troubles with health care or Obama’s low poll ratings are affecting fundraising.
“By any measurement, enthusiasm and engagement among our supporters is reaching a record high,” said Matt Canter, the deputy executive director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Tickets for the fundraiser at the San Francisco Jazz Center, which attracted about 400 donors and artists Herbie Hancock and Esmeralda Spalding, cost up to $15,000. A second event, at the home of salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff, cost donors up to $32,400, the Democratic National Committee said.
After those events in San Francisco on Monday, Obama headed to Los Angeles to raise money for House and Senate Democrats. One event was held at the home of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the former NBA star and now co-owner of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers.
Obama also visited with the family of a Transportation Security Administration officer who was killed at Los Angeles International Airport earlier this month.
The White House said Obama gathered with relatives of officer Gerardo Hernandez at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The president also met with TSA agents Tony Grigsby and James Speer, both of whom were wounded in the shootings.