2012 - %3, November

Obama Raised $300 Million With Big-Dollar Bundlers

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 3:25 PM EST

President Barack Obama decisively won a second term thanks to what he called "the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics." A critical part of Obama's cutting-edge political machine was the vaunted fundraising operation assembled by Obama's allies. Fueled by millions of small individual donations and big-dollar gifts from wealthy supporters, Obama's reelection effort raised north of $1 billion this election.

A tremendous, unprecedented grassroots fundraising effort accounted for a large chunk of this take. But Obama also pulled off a major big-money operation. He raised a staggering $300 million in top-dollar donations through an extensive network of so-called "bundlers," according to campaign spokeswoman Katie Hogan. These volunteer fundraisers gathered donations from friends, family, colleagues, and more, each collecting between $50,000 and millions of dollars for the campaign. At last count, the Obama campaign had 758 bundlers working on its behalf; the list included Vogue editor Anna Wintour, pop star Gwen Stefani, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

Presidential candidates are not required to disclose their bundlers. The Obama campaign did so voluntarily throughout the 2012 campaign. The Romney campaign never revealed its bundlers.

Several Obama bundlers say the campaign's big-dollar fundraising was so successful that the campaign revised its goal upwards at least once. Hogan notes that "it is accurate to say the goal was increased, but I don't have more details about that."

The president raised money at a blistering, historic pace during the 2012 campaign. He attended a total of 220 reported fundraisers—more than any presidential candidate before him—between the launch of his reelection campaign launch in April 2011 and Election Day. At one point, in August of this year, Obama was attending, on average, one fundraiser every 60 hours.

Dick Harpootlian, an Obama bundler and the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, says Obama's fundraising operation was like nothing he'd seen in 40 years of politics. Matthew Barzun, the former US ambassador to Sweden who oversaw Obama's bundler network, was "extraordinary," Harpootlian says. "I can't overstate how effective his focus was on fundraising and the staff that he put together."

Harpootlian added: "This was better than [the] '08 [Obama campaign], and many of the people involved in '08 were involved in this. They've learned and grown."

A Midwest-based bundler says the campaign's fundraising operation made smart investments in staff and technology early in the campaign. "There was never a moment on the campaign that I recall where it felt like they were panicked about how they were fundraising," this bundler says.

Harpootlian echoes that sentiment. He says the campaign's fundraising team succeeded in raising big money early, knowing that smaller donations wouldn't flood in until later in the campaign when more people tuned into the race.

On the weekend before the election, the president's top fundraisers joined a conference call with Barzun and Obama. The two men offered their thanks for all the help raising this vast sum of money.

But Obama had another message for this elite group of supporters, according to Harpootlian. "A number of you are coming to Chicago" for Election Day, Obama said. "But we've got doors to knock in Wisconsin." Shortly after, an email went out to fundraisers with information about buses taking supporters into Wisconsin, and with phone numbers to call to get out the vote in key states.

"You know what?" Harpootlian says. "Everybody loved it."

And indeed, Harpootlian says, some bundlers did end up in Wisconsin on Election Day—before making their way to the celebration.

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Please, For the Love of God, Stop Talking About Raising the Retirement Age

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 3:02 PM EST

I guess there's no avoiding the fiscal cliff. I feel like I want to scream the next time I hear the phrase, but that cuts no ice with either the media or my editors, who want me to write a fiscal cliff piece of my very own. I'm going to put that off until my head feels a little less explode-y, but maybe everyone will get to hear my pearls of wisdom next week.

In the meantime, I gather that our newly reelected president is talking this morning about....the fiscal cliff. I don't have the TV on, but Digby informs me via Twitter that this is the state of things:

This just drives me nuts. I've said repeatedly that I think liberals should try to cut a deal on Social Security. This hasn't done my popularity any good, but I continue to think it's a good idea. It could be done fairly easily with a combination of benefit cuts and revenue increases that are quite small and would be phased in over a couple of decades, and it would get the issue off the table so we can focus on other, more important things. It would also be a proof of concept that Congress can actually get something done.

But I continue to be gobsmacked by the insane preoccupation with increasing the retirement age. I get that it's easy to understand, and that makes it an obvious target. But it's probably about the worst possible way of cutting benefits. It's regressive, it's unfair, it's blunt, and it's stupid. That might not matter if it were the only solution, but it's not. There are dozens of other ways of shaving benefits a bit, and virtually all of them are better and fairer than taking a meat axe to the retirement age.

(Which, by the way, was already raised to age 67 for younger cohorts way back in 1983. Does anyone in the media know this?)

If you don't like the idea of any benefit cuts, no matter how small or how slowly phased in they are, then you just don't want to cut a deal. That's fine. I disagree, but that's fine. Ditto for all of you who oppose any revenue increases, no matter how small or how slowly phased in they are.

But for the rest of us, who think there's at least the chance of a productive conversation on these topics, can we all just shut up about the retirement age? Pick some other way of shaving benefits. It might take you an extra few seconds to explain, but who cares? Take the extra few seconds. It'll make all of us a little bit smarter.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for November 9, 2012

Fri Nov. 9, 2012 2:37 PM EST

Troopers from 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Opposing Force at the National Training Center, go on the offensive to conduct a force on force engagement with the 4th Infantry Division in Fort Irwin Calif. November 5, 2012. Photo by Capt. Chad Cooper, 11th Armored Cavarly Regiment Public Affairs Officer. 

Koch-Backed Group Warns Chris Christie

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 2:30 PM EST
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Conservatives are peeved at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a GOP favorite, for praising President Barack Obama response to Hurricane Sandy days before the election. Some right-wingers even blame Christie for boosting the president's prospects at the last minute. (Christie hugged Obama! How could he?!) Now, in the aftermath of the election, a powerhouse conservative outfit partly funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers is coming after Christie on another front, sharply questioning whether the governor will sell out conservatives in the latest battle over Obamacare.

The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill on October 18 creating a state-based online health insurance marketplace; it did so because under Obamacare a state must either create its own insurance marketplace or let the federal government do it. Christie vetoed a similar state-based insurance exchange bill in May, but he said last month he wouldn't decide what to do about the new bill until after Election Day.

Enter the New Jersey chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed conservative grassroots group. AFP-New Jersey is pressuring Christie to reject the state exchange bill and rebuff Obamacare's requirements before November 16, the date by which states must submit its health insurance plans to the federal government. Here's what AFP-New Jersey Steve Lonegan had to say about Christie in a press release zapped out two days after the election:

Barack Obama has been re-elected. Congress will not be able to repeal the law so now the burden is on the states to thwart it. That means these bureaucratic and costly exchanges must be stopped, along with the tax increases that come along with them.

Other conservative governors across the country like Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and others have already taken a principled stand. Where is Governor Christie? Will he stand with them? Will he prevent New Jerseyans from having their health care choices controlled by federal bureaucrats? Will he allow our state’s struggling businesses to be hammered by Obamacare's tax penalties with unemployment hovering around 10 percent? Or will he continue to go along to get along with Barack Obama?

AFP-New Jersey seems suspicious about Christie. And that last line, of course, is a jab at Christie's buddying up with Obama during Sandy's aftermath. AFP-NJ is urging its supporters to lean on Christie by calling his office and signing an online petition demanding Christie say no to Obamacare.

This preemptive chastising of Christie is an odd turn in the Koch-Christie tale. The Koch brothers have long been fans of the governor. On June 26, 2011, as Mother Jones first reported, Christie delivered the keynote speech at Charles and David Koch's ultra-exclusive seminar at the Ritz-Carlton resort near Vail, Colorado. At the event, David Koch hailed Christie as a "true political hero." He noted,

Five months ago we met in my New York City office and spoke, just the two of us, for about two hours on his objectives and successes in correcting many of the most serious problems of the New Jersey state government. At the end of our conversation, I said to myself, "I'm really impressed and inspired by this man. He is my kind of guy."

David Koch praised Christie for pushing legislation that took away the right of public workers to bargain collectively for health benefits and for pulling New Jersey out of a regional cap-and-trade market created by 10 Northeastern states to curb industrial greenhouse gas emissions. He expressed his hope of seeing Christie "on a larger stage where, God knows, he is desperately needed."

That meant the 2012 presidential race. A September 26, 2011, New York Times article cited David Koch as part of a "small but influential group of Republican-leaning donors and activists" trying to coax Christie into the contest. The following month, though, Christie announced he wouldn't run in 2012.

Might Obamacare cause a split between Christie and Kochworld? Christie has yet to say, post-election, what he will do regarding the health insurance battle underway in his state. But the Koch-funded AFP has certainly warned him that there will be a price to be paid for any further pro-Obama apostasy.

Ohio: Not That Big a Deal After All

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 1:18 PM EST

Just in case you haven't read this yet, here's a remarkable statistic: even if Romney had won Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, he still would have lost. This makes it all the weirder that he and his team were so sure they were going to win all the way to the end. After all, it's plausible that if turnout had been slightly different he could have reeled in those three states, which he lost by only two or three points. But which state would have been the fourth? Pennsylvania? He lost it by 5 points. Colorado? 5 points. New Hampshire? 6 points. Iowa? 6 points. Nevada? 7 points. Wisconsin? 7 points. What possible turnout models could they have been cooking up in their back rooms that convinced them any of those states were truly in play?

Global Warming Even Worse Than We Thought

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 12:54 PM EST

How bad is global warming likely to be? Some models say bad, other models say really bad. So a couple of climate scientists lined up all the models and compared how they did on one specific metric that could be easily measured: relative humidity over the past ten years. Which model did the best?

Looking back at 10 years of atmospheric humidity data from NASA satellites, the pair examined two dozen of the world’s most sophisticated climate simulations. They found the simulations that most closely matched humidity measurements were also the ones that predicted the most extreme global warming.

....“The models at the higher end of temperature predictions uniformly did a better job,” Fasullo said. The simulations that fared worse — the ones predicting smaller temperature rises — “should be outright discounted,” he said.

The most accurate climate simulations were run by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, a consortium in Japan and a facility at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Who knows. Maybe humidity is just a weird outlier. Anything's possible, especially if you're bound and determined to insist that climate change is no big deal. But if this research is right—and it's hardly the first to suggest that global warming is likely to be worse than we think—you can forget the idea of the world warming by 2 degrees C by the end of the century. Try 5 degrees instead. And then kiss your ass goodbye.

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Post-Shellacking, Republicans Begin to Shift On Immigration

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 12:31 PM EST

After watching Barack Obama get reelected with a whopping 75 percent of the Latino vote, including about half of the historically Republican-leaning Cuban-American vote in Florida, Republicans are beginning to warm to the idea of comprehensive immigration reform.

During Obama's first term, Republicans successfully blocked attempts at comprehensive immigration reform and filibustered the DREAM Act. But during an interview with ABC News yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it was time to tackle the issue:

It’s an important issue that I think oughta be dealt with. There's– this issue has been around far too long. And while– I'm– believe it’s important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws– I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue. And I’m confident– that– the president, myself, others– can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all.

Some leading conservative pundits have also come around on the issue. Sean Hannity said on his radio program Thursday that undocumented immigrants who are "law-abiding" should be able to have a "path to citizenship" as long as the feds "secure the border." Charles Krauthammer stopped short of supporting citizenship, but said that some sort of "amnesty" had to be considered

The backlash is already manifesting. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has referred to illegal immigration as a "slow-motion holocaust," tweeted yesterday that "Obama voters chose dependency over Liberty. Now establishment R's want citizenship for illegals. You can't beat Santa Claus with amnesty." Republicans foiled George W. Bush's attempts at comprehensive immigration reform, and the party has only moved right on the issue since. Not do Republicans exactly have a spectacular record of compromise with the Obama administration. 

Republicans who believe their problems with Latino voters can be completely resolved with a shift on immigration are probably mistaken. Immigration isn't the only issue that Latinos care about, but Republican opposition to immigration reform is frequently expressed in terms that suggests blanket hostility to Latinos as a whole. Taking the issue off the table might help the GOP in that respect, but more importantly it would spur economic growth and provide a real solution for the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the US, most of whom are working hard, taking care of their families, and minding their own business. 

Mitt Romney for Treasury Secretary!

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 12:13 PM EST

Wouldn't it be kind of fascinating if President Obama offered the job of Treasury Secretary to Mitt Romney? I mean, what's the harm? How much friendlier toward banks could he be than Tim Geithner?

I know, not gonna happen. But it would certainly put a whole new gloss on reaching across the aisle, wouldn't it?

A One-Sentence Review of "Skyfall," The New James Bond Movie

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 11:55 AM EST

We've come a long way since Christmas Jones.

Skyfall
Columbia Pictures
142 minutes

I have an obscenely long list of graphic, expletive-riddled phrases I've been using to illustrate how much I enjoyed Sam Mendes' installment in the Daniel Craig era of Bond movies, but I'm told that this is a family-friendly website.


Corn on MSNBC: The Fiscal Cliff Fight

Fri Nov. 9, 2012 11:53 AM EST

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn joined the Guardian's Ana Marie Cox and economist Jared Bernstein on MSNBC's Martin Bashir Thursday to discuss the impending "fiscal cliff" battle between Democrats and Republicans. How will Congress reach a compromise if House Speaker John Boehner and House Tea Party members are still resistant to tax increases? Watch:

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.