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Mar 032013
 

Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Actor Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith are among the new names on an updated list of fundraisers released today by the remnants of President Obama’s re-election campaign to reflect fourth quarter contributions.

An Obama for America spokesperson says there were few additions to the list, as the bulk of fundraising came earlier in the race. The 2012 fourth quarter began Oct. 1, just over a month before Election Day.

Smith and Pinkett-Smith are new additions to the list of bundlers who raised north of $500,000. Their appearance is not surprising: In late October the Hollywood couple hosted a fundraising luncheon at their California home for first lady Michelle Obama. The event sold out 250 tickets at a minimum $2,500 per plate.

Other notable names on the list of donors who raised $500,000 or more include former New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine, Gwen Stefani and Eva Longoria.

The complete updated list can be found here.

Today’s disclosure was a voluntary move by the campaign. Federal guidelines only require candidates to disclose fundraising from registered lobbyists. Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain agreed to disclose all bundlers who raised upwards of $50,000 during their 2008 election bid; Mitt Romney did not follow suit in this most recent season.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Dec 032012
 

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(BOSTON) — The 2012 election cycle came full circle last week when representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns, as well as top advisors to many of the GOP primary candidates and several influential outside groups, gathered at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for a 2012 debrief — finally answering some of the lingering questions about the race.

On neutral ground in Cambridge, Mass., fierce rivals (think Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and strategist Stuart Stevens and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and strategist David Axelrod) met for the first time since the election — and many for the first time ever.

The conference, organized by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, featured a who’s who of political bold-faced names from campaign 2012, including senior campaign aides like Romney political director Rich Beeson and pollster Neil Newhouse, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and digital director Teddy Goff, Rick Santorum adviser John Brabender, former Rick Perry campaign operatives Rob Johnson and Dave Carney and even Mark Block, who ran Herman Cain’s short-lived but much-talked-about presidential bid.

Representatives from the outside groups that had so much influence — and spent so much money — on the election were also on hand, including Bill Burton, senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action; Steven Law, head of the pro-Republican group American Crossroads; and Tim Phillips, president of the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

Dozens of campaign 2012 veterans and journalists were on hand for the sessions, which covered the GOP primary, the general election, campaign strategy, the debates, conventions and the emerging power of the super PACS.

Here are some of the highlights from the conference:

Romney’s Campaign Concedes Immigration Position in Primary Was a Mistake

Mitt Romney’s decision to take a hard-line stance on immigration during the GOP primary was considered a big reason for his paltry 27 percent showing among Latino voters. But, the conventional wisdom has suggested that Romney couldn’t have won the primary without drawing a strong contrast with Texas Gov. Rick Perry on this hot-button issue.

Romney campaign manager Matt Rhodes, however, says that his candidate could have won the primary without attacking Perry’s support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.  When asked by panel moderator Jonathan Martin of Politico whether he “regret[s] trying to outflank Perry on the right on immigration,” Rhoades took a long pause, and then shifted the conversation to Perry’s controversial statements about Social Security. Romney had attacked the Texas governor for calling the popular entitlement program a “Ponzi scheme” and a “failure.”

“In retrospect,” Rhoades said. “I believe we probably could have just beaten Perry with the Social Security hit.”

So while Rhoades never said he wished that Romney had never uttered the words, “self-deportation” he essentially conceded that he regrets the immigration position the governor took in the primary.

The Obama Campaign Only Fully Committed to Florida in Mid-September

If there was one state that the Romney campaign felt confident they were going to win it was Florida. And, until mid-September, the Obama campaign wasn’t convinced that they were going to contest the state. That changed in the aftermath of the strong convention in Charlotte, however, and the Obama campaign decided that they were going to go “full out” to win there.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod:

“One of the things that we had discussed internally was the state of Florida and how we were going to treat Florida. We had made a decision that we were going to wait until mid September and after the conventions to see where we were in Florida before we fully committed. We were in, we had invested a lot, but we hadn’t been in the Miami media market. When we emerged from conventions not only had we gotten a little bump, but we saw Florida remained very competitive and made the decision to go full out in Florida.”

Team Romney Never Read Clint Eastwood Speech

Romney strategist and convention director Russ Schrieffer was asked by panel moderator Ron Brownstein of National Journal if anyone actually read a copy of Eastwood’s speech. The answer: not so much.

Russ Schrieffer: “I said [to Eastwood] are you going to do what we talked about, are you going to talk about what you talked about at these fundraisers. And he looked at me and said … ‘Yep.’”

Laughter followed Schrieffer’s comments to which he replied:

“It’s Clint Eastwood, you [can't] argue with him.”

Republicans Are Worried About the Technology Gap With Democrats

Jon Huntsman’s campaign manager Matt David noted that, “one area we should freak out about is technology. The GOP is far behind there.”

The Obama campaign used social media as a means to an end: using technology as a way to recruit, persuade, target and turn out voters.  Obama’s digital campaign guru Teddy Goff pointed to the power of Facebook in helping to find a previously unreachable group of potential voters: the friends of those who were already voting for the President.

In 2008, said Goff, they found that “99 percent of our email list voted.” As such, Goff said, “We entered into this election, with an understanding that anyone we were talking to directly, the vast majority were voting for us. So the question was … how can we serve them with stuff that will make them go out and get their friends.” And, Obama’s Facebook fans were a great place to start. Obama’s 33 million Facebook fans globally are friends with 98 percent of the U.S. Facebook population, Goff said.

Facebook also helped the campaign track down their coveted 18-to-29-year-old cohort. Goff explained that they were unable to reach half of their 18-to-29 GOTV targets by phone because they didn’t have a phone number for them. But, he said, they could reach 85 percent of that group via a Friend of Barack Obama on Facebook. “We had an ability to reach those people who simply otherwise couldn’t be reached,” Goff said.

Was the Romney High Command Really and Truly Shocked on Election Night?

Neil Newhouse, Romney pollster:

“Here’s what we saw in the data: you have to give credit to the Obama campaign for undercutting it. We saw in the last two weeks, an intensity advantage, a campaign interest advantage, an enthusiasm advantage for Republicans and Mitt Romney. … Just the same as we saw four years ago on behalf of Barack Obama. We thought it would tilt the partisan make-up of the electorate a couple points in our direction.

“We weren’t surprised by racial composition; we were surprised by the partisan composition. … The real hidden story here on our side, the number of white men who didn’t vote in this election compared to four years ago was extraordinary. And these white men were replaced by white women. We were taking a group we won by 27 points and replacing them with a group we won by 12-14 points.”

Perry Should Have Waited Until Late Fall, Not Summer, to Jump In

Perry strategist Dave Carney said the biggest tactical mistake made by Perry was that “we should have started years ago.” Perry, as governor in a state with a part-time legislature, “had a lot of time on his hands” — he should have used that time, and his role as RGA chair, to meet donors and travel the country before 2011. Once Perry decided to get in, however, Carney argues the Perry should have waited until mid-October or November to get into the race. That extra few months, said Carney, “would have given us more time to be prepared and do the groundwork that was necessary on the issues.”

What Role Did Karl Rove Play With Republican Outside Groups Like American Crossroads, Which He Co-founded?

Steven Law, president and CEO of American Crossroads and president CrossroadsGPS:

“Karl … recognized it was really important to not simply have an organization exist in a particular cycle for a tactical use but to … start to build enduring institutional strength on the right the way that we saw the unions providing that for the Democrats. … And then there were certain other parts that I think Karl really gets credit for. The first is encouraging us to reach out to other center-right groups and to try to start to collaborate where we were legally permitted to do so to share information and encourage people to pull the oars in the same direction. On the fundraising side both he and Ed [Gillespie] and then later on Haley Barbour were all tremendously instrumental in harvesting their Rolodexes and relationships. Karl is a guy that’s got tremendously good ideas, and again, not so much on the tactical side but more kind of broad strategic moments and was a tremendously useful and valuable source of ideas along the way.”

Bill Burton, senior adviser, Priorities USA Action:

“He also helped us raise money. I probably e-mailed out every one of his columns to our donors — our high-dollar list — to point out what they were saying on the Republican side and how confident Rove was. … When he would go on TV bursting with confidence about Romney winning, that little click went around every single time. Karl Rove is an enduring figure for both sides.”

After Rove’s Appearance on Fox News on Election Night, Is He Discredited Within the Republican Party?

Steven Law:

“Absolutely not. We all get our turn in the barrel.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 302012
 

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Remember all those Obama campaign emails and their, shall we say, unusual subject lines?

“Hey,” wrote President Obama in at least five messages during the campaign.

“Hell yeah,” topped one note from strategist David Axelrod.

Beyonce Knowles teased in an inbox message, “I don’t usually email.”

And women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke provocatively reached out on “Legitimate rape.”

New data released by the campaign show that these and other catchy and casual phrases were hugely successful at getting Obama supporters to open the emails and click through to donate.

Most of the $690 million “Obama for America” raised through online fundraising came from direct email appeals, according to data provided by the president’s campaign exclusively to Bloomberg Businessweek and confirmed by ABC News.

The more casual and profane the tone, the campaign said, the more lucrative the blast.

Obama’s “Hey” subject-lined messages were the most effective pitches of all, though the campaign did not provide a specific dollar amount.

One Obama email blast from June 26 with the subject line, “I will be outspent,” raked in $2.5 million, the data provided to Bloomberg showed.  Other iterations of the same message sent under different subject headings — e.g. “Thankful every day,” or, “Michelle time” — were notably less successful, raking in $545,486 and $604,813, respectively.

The campaign relied on a staff of 20 full-time email writers who constantly drafted and experimented with different versions of appeals, officials said, sending them to small lists first to see what was most effective before mailing to a larger listserv of millions of names.

An October report by Return Path, an independent “email intelligence” group, found that Obama’s email campaign dwarfed that of GOP rival Mitt Romney in terms of scope and effectiveness.

The study found that Obama had 13 million email subscribers — five times as many as Romney — with a 68 percent inbox placement rate (evading spam filters).  Romney’s placement rate was just 50 percent, according to the group, which based its findings on a random sample of two million inboxes between Aug. 27 and Oct. 10.

All told, by ABC News’ count, Obama sent 65 fundraising emails under his name to his campaign listserv; Michelle Obama sent 35; Obama campaign manager Jim Messina sent 34; deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter sent 45; national field director Jeremy Bird sent 21; and former President Bill Clinton sent nine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 282012
 

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(BOSTON) — It’s been just over three weeks since Election Day 2012, but to many it already feels like an eternity.

President Obama’s victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney quickly gave way to an unfolding sex scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, speculation about new Obama administration cabinet members — particularly the possible nomination of Susan Rice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state — and the fiscal cliff negotiations that are now consuming Washington.

But after more than a year and a half of campaigning, the long road to Nov. 6 is coming full circle this week as representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns, as well as top advisers to many of the GOP primary candidates and several influential outside groups, are gathering this week at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government for a 2012 debrief.

On neutral ground in Cambridge, Mass., fierce rivals (think Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina) will meet for the first time since the election — and many for the first time ever.

The conference will culminate on Thursday night with a forum, organized by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, featuring Messina, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod, Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom and senior strategist Stuart Stevens.

Stevens, the eccentric advertising and message guru who was frequently at Romney’s side on the campaign trail, previewed his look-back at the race on Wednesday in a Washington Post op-ed in which he acknowledged that “Romney was never a favorite of D.C.’s Green Room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians.”

But his column amounts to a fierce defense of Romney the candidate, even arguing that the former Massachusetts governor sparked a “national movement.”

“When Mitt Romney stood on stage with Barack Obama, it wasn’t about television ads or whiz-bang turnout technologies, it was about fundamental Republican ideas versus fundamental Democratic ideas,” Stevens wrote. “It was about lower taxes or higher taxes, less government or more government, more freedom or less freedom. And Republican ideals — Mitt Romney — carried the day.”

In the end, however, President Obama won the day, scooping up almost all the swing states the Romney campaign hoped to capture and amassing 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.

The Harvard gathering is taking place on the same day that President Obama plans to meet privately with Romney at the White House. Thursday’s meeting will be their first since the election. It also comes as Republicans continue to regroup after their loss this November and as chatter about potential 2016 presidential contenders has already begun.

When asked in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan Tuesday night whether it was a mistake for the GOP to nominate Romney, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus answered unequivocally, “No, I don’t think so at all.”

But, Priebus added that in order for his party “to get back in the game,” party leaders will need to “do a full autopsy of what happened.”

That autopsy is already taking both privately and publicly at venues like the Republican Governors Association conference in Las Vegas earlier this month where GOP governors from around the country offered an initial assessment of what went wrong. And it will continue next month when the RNC holds its annual winter meeting, which is sure to spark another round of soul-searching from party activists from around the country.

This week’s sessions at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics will include a who’s who of political bold-faced names from campaign 2012, including senior campaign aides like Romney political director Rich Beeson and pollster Neil Newhouse, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and digital director Teddy Goff, Rick Santorum adviser John Brabender, former Rick Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson and even Mark Block, who ran Herman Cain’s short-lived but much-talked-about presidential bid.

Representatives from the outside groups that had so much influence — and spent so much money — on the election will also be on hand, including Bill Burton, senior strategist for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action; Steven Law, head of the pro-Republican group American Crossroads; and Tim Phillips, president of the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

In all more than three dozen campaign 2012 veterans will be on hand, along with some of the journalists who covered the election.

The closing forum with Messina, Axelrod, Fehrnstrom and Stevens will be streamed live on the Institute of Politics website Thursday at 6 p.m.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Nov 282012
 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Looking for the perfect present for a presidential history buff this holiday season?  The Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle has just the thing — but it will cost you a pretty penny.

With packages starting at $1,095 per night, guests staying over inauguration weekend can enjoy a four-night program featuring the extravagant tastes of presidents past and present.

Each night has new activities and amenities.  

On Friday, guests are welcomed with pillow cases with an inauguration seal, a picture of the president in an edible chocolate frame and a Saks Fifth Avenue wine cork.  Dine on black and white macaroni and cheese with white cheddar and black truffles in the West End Bistro to celebrate the black and white themed night.

On Saturday, take away two engraved wine goblets, specialty cheeses and wines from two vineyards with connections to Thomas Jefferson.  While there are no wines from Jefferson’s Monticello estate, Jefferson originally designed the home on the land where Octagon wines are produced.  The second wine comes from Jefferson Vineyards, which use land Jefferson sold to a grape grower before the American Revolution.

Day three prepares guests for the next day’s festivities with an inauguration survival kit, including a coffee tumbler and signature blue shawl.  Adults can relax in the lounge that night with whiskey, while the little ones can read Obama’s children’s book in their room.

While many of the features are distinctly Obama-inspired, these ideas have been in the works for almost a year.  That means that up until Nov. 6, there was a Romney-themed selection of festivities on the table, too.

On the day of the inaugural ceremony, D.C. Central Kitchen pairs up with the the Ritz-Carlton to bake guests cookies inspired by first lady Michelle Obama’s recipe.

Each morning, guests can start the day with a spritz of cologne or perfume selected to match the scent of a past president or first lady, and every night they can visit a Twitter bar complete with specially-prepared “tweetinis,” sharing their experience using the hashtag #RCInauguration.

But why exclude the kids and in-laws from this historic event?  For just $201,300, a family or other group can reserve a block of suites and guest rooms at the hotel.  The complete inaugural package includes transportation to and from the hotel, a private tour of the city, a $35,000 inauguration pin, a trip to the popular Georgetown Cupcake — line-free — to design your own cupcake, which the shop will feature on Inauguration Day, and a view for two of the inauguration from the Newseum, several blocks from the Capitol.

None of these packages, however, includes a ticket to the inauguration itself.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio