When President Obama passed health care reform last year and upended an entire industry, there were plenty of powerful interests that were no fans of the new law. Yet Obama has still collected more campaign cash from the health care industry than his potential Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.
Obama has raised $1.6 million so far from the industry, which is 76 percent more than Romney' $920,000 haul and more than triple the $494,000 Perry has raised, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign money watchdog.
That disparity is particularly counterintuitive considering how soured many of the key players were on the debate's outcome: insurers opposed the law; doctors had their No. 1 priority, fixing Medicare reimbursement rates, stripped out of the bill to keep costs down and the drug industry saw their $80 billion deal with the White House and Senate Democrats balloon to an estimated $100 billion by the debate's end.
Yet, Obama outperformed both Romney and Perry among drug industry interests, bringing in $230,000 compared to Romney's $161,000 and Perry's $43,000. And even among insurers, who Obama used as a political punching bag throughout the debate, Obama holds his own, bringing in only $20,000 less than Romney's $111,000 total, according to CRP.
So what gives?
The industry is hedging its bets. The Obama administration still has a mountain of regulations to implement and trade associations and companies don't want to alienate an administration that holds huge sway over their bottom lines.
"There's an old adage that fear equals funding and there's still a lot of fear about where this administration is heading so there's still a level of giving that's commensurate to the level of access they want," said a health care insider. "These are not thank you notes."
It's too early to tell if Obama will be able to keep that fundraising edge throughout the election or whether the industry will eventually coalesce behind the Republican nominee. Remember, it wasn't until late in the 2010 election cycle that Wall Street, which largely opposed the Democrats' financial reforms, threw its cash behind congressional Republicans, destroying the fundraising advantage Democrats had enjoyed two years earlier.
Considering the history, a similar 11th hour conversion by the health care industry is not out of the question.