At first glance, it's not surprising that President Obama has decided to raise cash for Democratic lawmakers and potential candidates vying for office in 2014. After all, it's very much in the president's interest. If he wants to enact his policies, he'll need to keep the Senate in Democratic hands and help his party win back the House.
But there's more to the story. Obama has earned a reputation for not paying close enough attention to Hill Democrats. The Atlantic just this week tallied nine headlines that catalogued Democratic frustration with the president. Here's the flavor of the frustration: In 2010, Robert Gibbs, then White House press secretary, referred to liberals as the "professional Left" and suggested that Democrats could lose the House. They, of course, eventually did. The comment infuriated Democrats, with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz telling Gibbs he was wrong.
One Democratic strategist said that Obama has done next to nothing to help members in recent years.
"It was a cold, calculated decision that they made months before that they were in it for themselves. This was strategic," this Democrat said.
So the fact that Obama will raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, appearing at 10 events outside Washington, one event each in Washington and joint fundraising events for candidates, is a sign the White House and Hill Democrats could be mending fences.
Guy Cecil, the executive director of the DSCC, took to Twitter to show his appreciation to the president.
Obama himself showed signs that he's willing to improve his relationship with Hill Democrats. Speaking to lawmakers Thursday at a retreat in Leesburg, Va., he indirectly acknowledged the poor relationship. "I'm looking forward to spending time with all 49 of you," Obama said to freshmen lawmakers, according to pool reports. He also said he's looking forward to a second speakership for Nancy Pelosi.
It's also worth pointing out that, according to The New York Times, the president is attending events for the committees, not specific candidates. In conservative states that went for Mitt Romney in 2012 and where Obama is unpopular, vulnerable Democratic senators such as Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, could be reluctant to appear with the president.
"Everyone knows the score," the Democratic strategist said. "The goal, after all, is to get members reelected. Sometimes it's welcoming the president. Sometimes it's other ways, including providing money through the campaign committees."
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