WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has said he will have plenty of time to campaign for re-election in 2012, but his fledgling campaign team is wasting no time.
Days after leaving his post as White House deputy chief of staff, campaign manager Jim Messina spent the last week hop-scotching across the country to hold sessions with prominent donors in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston.
His outreach is part of an intense push to rebuild the finance operation that helped Obama raise a record $745 million in 2008. Republican campaign finance lawyers have predicted Obama could top $1 billion in 2012.
The donor gatherings come weeks before the campaign is expected to register with the Federal Election Commission and set up a mechanism to accept contributions. The goal for now is simply to re-engage with the party’s big financial backers.
Obama aides are keen to lock in the support of well-connected donors who bundled, or collected, contributions in 2008 – more than 500 wealthy individuals who together raised at least $75 million, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
While many bundlers are already enthusiastic, some said that Obama cannot assume that those who played a major role in 2008 will step up again.
“My sense is they will need to work very hard and almost start from scratch in recruiting those people,” said Philadelphia education consultant Peter Buttenweiser, who raised at least $500,000 for Obama in 2008.
Buttenweiser said he wants to hear the campaign’s strategy for states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio that lost Democratic governors last year.
“I remain a big supporter of the president, more so in the last eight weeks than in the last two years,” he said. “I think he’s turning a corner and becoming ever more effective. But I’m not just going to reach back in until I get a much clearer sense of what the 2012 election will be about.”
One key target for the campaign is Los Angeles, where Obama enjoyed strong backing among Hollywood executives such as Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, who each helped raise at least $500,000.