President Barack Obama, coming home to Chicago on Thursday to raise money for Senate Democrats, plans a sustained effort to help re-elect Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, White House political director David Simas told me.
“There will be strong support for Gov. Quinn throughout this cycle,” Simas said.
While some Democrats have distanced themselves from Obama, that’s never been the case with Quinn. Quinn told me earlier this year that if other Democrats did not want the president to stump for them, “We’ll be happy to take that time.”
In his home of state Illinois, Obama, in addition to fundraising, has enormous ability to engage, mobilize and turn out base Democratic voters for Quinn, locked in what is shaping up as a close and costly race against Republican Bruce Rauner.
Obama’s top political priority is retaining Democratic control of the Senate in November. Without the Senate, Obama’s agenda for the last two years of his presidency is dead.
On Thursday, Obama headlines a reception and dinner in Chicago to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the re-election campaign of Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., running well ahead of long-shot GOP rival state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove.
Looking at Obama’s political year ahead, the president also will be making appearances to bolster the Democratic House and Senate super PACs, Simas said.
While there have been stories about Obama not focusing on the November elections, Simas said that is not the case.
“He is very engaged,” Simas said.
Obama has “had conversations” with U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., about “the prospects in House races” and discussions with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., chief of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, about Senate contests “both macro level and individually.” In addition, Obama has huddled with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chief of the Democratic Governors Association.
Several Democratic operatives told me there is a meeting every few weeks at the Democratic National Committee headquarters with staffers from the committees, pollsters and top White House political staff.
The White House sees Obama’s march towards the November midterm elections as unfolding in three stages. The emphasis now is on raising money, though that never really ends.
In 2013 and so far in 2014, Obama has done 34 fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee, with another 10 dates in the pipeline. So far this election cycle, Obama has headlined 13 events for the DCCC with four more planned and counting Chicago, five for the DSCC, with five more upcoming.
The second step is about messaging events, underscoring basic Obama themes such as boosting the minimum wage. The third phase is actively campaigning for certain candidates, whether via traditional visits or direct mail or whatever is most useful.
The Obama 2012 and 2008 campaigns were known for sophisticated crunching of “Big Data” to hunt down likely Obama donors and voters, persuade the persuadables and get them to the polls.
While Quinn is assured of Obama assistance, other candidates will have to make the case. The White House will be looking at a lot of data points to determine how best to deploy the president later this year.
Illinois has several big House races. Obama’s House play in Illinois is not yet set, though there is an obvious interest.
A Democratic strategist told me that the DSCC and DCCC approaches “are very, very analytical. They are very data-driven. They are very technology focused. And so, in interactions, where they are requesting the president’s time, the approach that they bring is informed by this rigor.”