Going West Never Looked Like Less Fun

Barack Obama heads to the coast to raise campaign funds and reassure liberal supporters

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Barack Obama is going prospecting out on the West Coast. The president is raising reelection cash, but he's also looking for something that would be as valuable as gold to his campaign: a key to reviving the flagging enthusiasm of liberals and moderates who make up his electoral base.

The West Coast swing is about boosting their spirits as well as raising money, the Associated Press reports. (Though a $4 million fundraising target is a nice excuse for a trip through Seattle, Hollywood and San Diego.)

So how will Obama be received by his erstwhile diehards?

He probably can look forward to a friendly welcome from invited fundraiser guests, including at private events with ticket prices as high as the $35,800 maximum. But liberal activists were making plans to greet Obama along the way with demonstrations criticizing his policies or reminding him they want him to do more.

"We want to see Obama stand up as strongly as he can to fight for the people of this country who are working out there to make ends meet," said Kathy Cummings, communications director for the Washington State Labor Council. The council was helping organize a demonstration outside Seattle's Paramount Theater, the site of an Obama fundraiser Sunday.

Yes, it seems the misgivings of former Obamanites are real. The New York Times reported this weekend about resistance from the very pool of small-dollar contributors that proved essential to Obama's 2008 campaign. Some report disappointment that Obama has not more forcefully confronted Republican opponents in Congress, others that he has failed to change the tone of business in Washington. Either way, many plan to sit on their hands for 2012. Though The Times does note that a whopping 552,000 have already contributed to Obama's reelection campaign, and the vast majority of that in small denominations, meaning the campaign can return to them for more money later in the cycle.

In another sign of a campaign trying to shore up its support, the Obama campaign has launched “Operation Vote,” a program intended to target ethnic and religious voting blocs and the party's liberal base. Spokesmen for the president's campaign told The Washington Post it's just a sign of a campaign team getting organized early, but others see it as a circling of wagons and attempt to prevent any more once-enthusiastic supporters from drifting away.

The tactical shift from 2008 is a matter of “survival of the most adaptable,” said longtime Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who is advising an independent, pro-Democratic group called Priorities USA.

“They did everything right in 2008, but that doesn’t mean they should do everything the way they did it in 2008,” Begala said. “It’s completely changed circumstances. You can’t be as untraditional as they were in 2008 when you’re the president. He’s the man now.”

Being the man isn't that simple. Obama has disappointed liberal supporters by failing to stand up to Republicans, particularly on economic matters, they say. Meanwhile, conservatives see in him the “leveler” of economic fortunes about whom they have warned for years, a “staunch believer in the redistributionist state,” as Charles Krauthammer puts it.

Somewhere in the middle, presumably, is the actual president, beset by opponents, busy accumulating campaign cash, and deluged always by unsolicited advice. Like this, from Salon:

Be more like Eric Schneiderman.

Some words of advice for the president from the online magazine's profile of New York's attorney general.

Schneiderman, like Obama, comes from the low-drama school of political presentation. He doesn't get red-in-the-face mad. He doesn't seduce. He's earnest and self-effacing and pedagogical. But unlike the president, he has a steady refusal to back down and a ready willingness to fight. He is the antihero that boiling mad progressives hope can manacle and perp-walk those responsible for the financial crisis.

Sounds easy enough.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.