Is President Obama baiting House Republicans?

June 21, 2012

In the past six days, President Obama has sent a very clear message to Republicans in Congress. And that message goes like this: Bring it on.


House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) respond to President Obama's remarks on the U.S. economy earlier this month. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
His decision to stop actively deporting young illegal immigrants, which was announced last Friday, and his action Wednesday to invoke executive privilege over documents tied to the “Fast and Furious” program both amount to a finger in the eye of House GOPers.

Congressional Republicans have quickly responded in kind — condemning Obama’s end-run around them on immigration and scheduling a contempt vote for Attorney General Eric Holder on the House floor next week.

The question is whether, in reacting quickly and forcefully to his provocations, Republicans are playing directly into Obama’s strategic plan.

It’s no secret that President Obama is doing everything he can to run against the unpopularity of the Republican Congress, trying at every turn to lump former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — who has never served a day in office in Washington, D.C. — in with that lot.

It’s also no secret that the economy is a tremendously complicated political issue for Obama and one without an obvious solution.

By going directly at Congress twice in the space of the last week, Obama not only ensures that House (and, to a lesser extent, Senate) Republicans get the national spotlight shone on them, but also that the national debate (at least for a few days) is focused on things like immigration, which is far better political space for him to fight.

Romney and his team obviously understand the perils of elevating congressional Republicans on issues like immigration. Romney did issue a statement on Obama’s immigration decision, and his campaign said Wednesday that the “Fast and Furious” choice amounted to “another broken promise” by the president.

But, in each instance, Romney has sought to quickly pivot back to his main economic message. That’s very smart, since it’s the ground on which he wins.

The question is whether Romney can keep House Republicans in line or at least somewhere close to on-message. The more chatter there is about suing Obama over immigration or a constitutional showdown over “Fast and Furious,” the less talk there is about the economy.

Obama knows this. Romney knows this. But do congressional Republicans?

Obama has $50 million cash advantage: All the major presidential committees filed their monthly campaign finance reports Wednesday.

The totals raised were announced last week, but the reports showed us just how much cash each side has.

Obama and the Democratic National Committee reported a combined $139 million cash on hand at the end of May, while Romney and the Republican National Committee had about $78 million.

Unclear is how much money is stashed in the joint fundraising committee between Romney and the RNC, which does not file monthly reports. Romney announced that he raised $77 million for his campaign and the RNC, which suggests some of it remains stashed in the joint fundraising committee, Romney Victory.

Obama’s campaign does not keep its joint fundraising committee well-stocked. It had just $4.5 million cash on hand at the end of May after transferring almost all of the money it raised to Obama’s campaign and the DNC. (There is really no reason to leave much money in the joint committee, which is a conduit for transferring money to the candidate and party committees.)

Romney’s joint committee will file its first quarterly report in July.

On the super PAC side, things are narrowing. The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future pulled in $5 million, more than pro-Obama Priorities USA Action’s $4.5 million. But the month was Priorities’ best to date, and Romney’s super PAC has only an $8.4 million to $5 million edge in cash on hand.

Of course, Romney also has help from the more generic GOP super PAC American Crossroads, which so far has no parallel in the super PAC world. (Crossroads also spends money on Senate campaigns, not just the presidential race. It raised $4.6 million in May and has $29.4 million cash on hand.)

Newt super PAC refunds Adelsons $5 million: The top pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, which had more than $5 million in the bank when the former House speaker ended his presidential campaign, has given the money back to Sheldon Adelson’s wife.

The super PAC, Winning Our Future, sent $5 million back to Miriam Adelson in May, its newly filed report shows. The refund means the Adelsons spent a combined $16.5 million on the super PAC’s efforts, rather than $21.5 million.

Fixbits:

Obama’s campaign launches a new ad targeting woman voters that notes the first ad the president signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

It also launches a Meetup-like organizing tool called “Dashboard.”

Romney’s campaign cuts of questions on a conference call when the reports ask about illegal immigration.

A poll from Marquette University Law School shows former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson leading former congressman Mark Neumann in the state’s open Senate primary, 34 percent to 16 percent. Businessman Eric Hovde is at 14 percent.

A new Quinnipiac poll of the Florida Senate race shows Rep. Connie Mack way ahead in the state’s GOP Senate primary and trailing Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) 43 percent to 39 percent.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who urges young Americans to opt out of Social Security, receives the benefits himself.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee outraised its GOP counterpart $5.6 million to $3.9 million in May.

Must-reads:

What led to Fast & Furious rebuke of Holder?” — Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times

Corporations, wealthy donors give large amounts to support Romney” — Dan Eggen, Washington Post

Many lawmakers not mentioning word ‘Congress’ in campaign ads” — Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

Conservatives target Thompson in Senate race” — AP

Ron Paul’s Route To Convention Chaos: The Vice Presidential Nomination” — Jon Ward, Huffington Post

Executive privilege poses tricky situation for Obama” — David Nakamura, Washington Post

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