President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign is banking on gay donors to make up the cash it’s losing from other groups of wealthy supporters who have been alienated and disappointed by elements of Obama’s first term.
Pleased by an all-out White House push to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” gay donors have surprised campaign officials with the extent of their support. And the campaign’s new fundraising apparatus appears designed to capitalize on their enthusiasm: Obama’s finance committee included one gay man in 2008; there are 15 this year, a source said.
The spur for the gay community becoming an anchor for Obama’s reelection fundraising is a series of policy shifts in 2010. After a year of rocky relations and suspicion from Obama’s gay supporters that he wasn’t really committed to their issues, the last year saw a surge in activity. Along with the high-profile repeal of the military ban, Obama’s Justice Department recently refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And the administration has taken smaller steps, like gay partner hospital visits and hate crimes legislation, concrete and important gestures that simply weren’t made during the Bush administration.
Gay support is particularly key this year to Obama, whose 2008 campaign raised huge sums from the very rich, just as it did from smaller donors. Now, key categories of supporters have grown leery. The left-leaning super-rich, including George Soros, see Obama as hopelessly compromised and have lost their enthusiasm for him. Some Wall Street and hedge fund executives, tired of being criticized and regulated, have switched sides. Some pro-Israel Jewish donors, a mainstay of Bill Clinton’s fundraising, dislike Obama’s pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu. And rich men on both coasts whom Clinton had accustomed to personal flattery, personal visits and late-night bull sessions have received no such personal attention from the more solitary Obama.
Though some prominent Obama fundraisers said they hope the gay donors will make up for that lost support, the campaign’s official line is that wealthy donors are as supportive as ever, and Democratic insiders stressed that they are aggressively pursuing donations from all groups, including those who’ve been described as disaffected over the past year. Several noted that Obama just had a sold-out Wall Street fundraiser, and there are plans for another one in June, adding that courting support from one group does not mean they are dropping interest in others.