Political strategists say his base of supporters is more sober, perhaps fatigued by recent high-profile state elections. Some Hollywood liberals have also been disappointed by the president’s handling of issues such as same-sex marriage.
Obama is almost certain to win in Democratic-leaning California in 2012 and raise millions of dollars among its highly liberal campaign donors. But it’s not clear whether he can inspire the same kind of enthusiasm that led to a group of entertainers famously creating a “Yes We Can” video that was watched by millions.
“2008 was a unique moment in time, by definition, that’s not going to repeat itself,” said Chris Lehane, a Bay Area-based political strategist who was a top adviser for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. “But California is still Obama country. He always has had a big base in the money community out there.”
Obama’s trip is part of the “fundraising kickoff” for his 2012 campaign, which included a group of events in Chicago last week and will continue to New York City next Wednesday.
His packed, star-studded two days on the West Coast include six fundraisers and two town halls, including one Wednesday at the Palo Alto headquarters of Facebook.
On Wednesday evening, he will attend a small dinner hosted by Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff in San Francisco’s regal Pacific Heights neighborhood that will require each guest to donate $35,800 to Obama’s reelection campaign.
The next morning, Obama will attend another expensive fundraiser, fly to Reno, Nev., for a campaign-style speech in that swing state before going to Los Angeles for three fundraisers, including one at Sony Pictures Studios featuring actor Jamie Foxx.
Also on his schedule is a dinner at the Brentwood restaurant Tavern, which film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and recording executive Berry Gordy are expected to attend, according to the Hollywood newspaper Variety. In total, Obama is likely to raise more than $4 million on his trip, just a tiny fraction of the millions he would need to match the $750 million he raised in 2008.
For fundraising, California may be more critical for Obama than in 2008. His campaign may raise less money among New York’s financial community because some on Wall Street remain angry over his support of a financial regulatory reform bill as well as his rhetoric, which at times has blamed bankers for the financial crisis.
In 2008, out of the total given by people working in the financial-services sector, 48 percent went to Democrats and 52 percent to Republicans, which is fairly typical in recent elections. In last year’s midterm elections, the money swung heavily to the Republicans — 39 percent to Democrats and 60 percent to the GOP.