Time, God and a billion in the bank: Why Obama’s prospects aren’t so bad

Barack Obama has two huge disadvantages going into the 2012 election: The economy and the economy. He also has two huge advantages: The Republicans and the Republicans. Despite the administration’s addiction to neoliberal crack, economic conditions could, possibly, in a perfect world, by accident, improve before the election; the Republicans can’t, and they’re what’s driving the Obama fundraising machine so far.

Make that three advantages: Few of his potential supporters seem to care much about his militarism—imagine the infuriated cries of liberals had George Bush been the president who decided to exclude the (no doubt furiously protested) bombing of Libya, and hence future air campaigns against whichever states are pissing him off, from Congressional oversight the way Obama did—or his national security excesses, or his refusal to prosecute even publicly confessed war criminals, or that he claims the right to execute Americans without due process. Turns out Democrats aren’t much different than Republicans when it comes to forgiving the hypocrisies and sins of their own. So all is well on that front.

Democratic fundraisers will clear between $300 million and $400 million by the end of the year in combined donations to Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. First quarter contributions to the campaign were good, although not great—the campaign started fundraising in April, so their first quarter is the calendar’s second quarter—but much of that money came in before Republicans started talking up the virtues of defaulting on the national debt. You can bet administration backers have been burning up the hot line to Wall Street since then, asking, “Do you really want those yahoos running your economy?” Some big money men will say, “Sure, they’re just kidding anyway,” but many others will say, “Better the yahoo we know …”

As they did in 2007-2008, Obama campaign officials are bragging about their principled refusal to take money from lobbyists or political action committees. And as in 2007-2008, they’re happy to take money from people who use lobbyists, or who are married to them, or who run the firms that provide them, or who work at those firms in capacities other than lobbying.

Despite the incessant whinging from banksters and Wall Street types about Obama’s harsh words toward their ilk, financial industry bundlers—fund raisers who collect at least $50,000 in individual contributions and write a single check to the campaign—raised $11 million for Obama, just shy of a third of his $35 million in bundled contributions. Nearly two thirds of the $11 million came from securities and investment firms. They may not all especially like Obama, but they see that big old butter-laden knife in his hands; witness the administration’s current attempt to geld New York attorney general Eric Scheiderman, whose determination to thoroughly investigate the behavior of criminal banking institutions got him kicked out of the White House-led group charged with negotiating a relative wrist slap for the big banks.

Heavyweights like Jon Corzine—former Goldman Sachs CEO, former US Senator and current CEO of derivatives monger WF Global—and Robert Rubin—former Goldman Sachs and Citigroup CEO, former US treasury secretary, and always and forever one of the most dramatically incendiary assholes behind the deregulatory frenzy that helped wreck the economy—both raised more than $500,000 each, as did 25 more bundlers from the financial and other vaporware sectors euphemistically described as industries. (Corzine recently hit the news through a gob-smacking arrangement his company made with investors: If he gets a job from Obama, the investors earn more interest on WF Global bonds.)

There is, then, plenty of money to be had from the usual suspects.

The Republican primaries are shaping up to offer more than the usual hilarity, along with myriad other Obama fundraising opportunities. Texas governor Rick Perry has more or less accused Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke of treason and has threatened him with physical harm should Bernanke show his face in Texas. (Perry has previously declared his state’s right to secede from the United States, but that apparently isn’t treason.) Both he and Michelle Bachmann are more or less openly copulating with wealthy Christian theocrats. Those are the sorts of things that inspire potential Obama contributors, even wholly disillusioned ones, to pony up, and they’re the sorts of things that bored politics reporters will eventually get around to reporting. Possibly.

The specter of Rick Perry running in the general election has struck down Bush family factotum Karl Rove with the vapors. Rove describes Perry as an idiot and is publicly longing for someone who is neither obviously crazed nor a Mormon nor Ron Paul nor a theocrat to enter the race. Although time is running out, Rove may yet end up buying such a candidate’s participation with promises of indirect money from his “American Crossroads” corporate slush fund.

That would mean diverting some of the group’s money to fund issue ads and organizing efforts aimed at undermining other Republicans during the primaries in addition to attacking Obama particularly and Democrats generally, but Rove and other squeamish Republican kneecappers may think it necessary to get a real shot at toppling the president.

Calling George Pataki? Now there’s a scintillating candidate.

Obama campaign officials deny reports that their fundraising target for the campaign is a billion dollars. Reaching that amount seems feasible, though; what Obama has lost by way of frustration among Democrats, he has gained back by way of Republican performance art. An incumbent president with a billion dollar bankroll will be tough to beat even in next year’s prospectively dreadful environment, and even up against the hundreds of millions that the mouthy corporate citizens on the right will be throwing at him. The decisive factor will probably be whether he decides to campaign as a Democrat or the ruthlessly post-partisan independent he apparently believes himself to be.

Democrats won’t have all that much to celebrate should Obama prevail. Their party will be effectively leaderless; the president will escalate his push toward International Monetary Fund-style austerity, including cuts to social insurance programs. Encouraged by his success in defenestrating the War Powers Act, and by the relatively small tab for installing the Gadaffi government, minus Gadaffi, in Libya, the president will probably find other opportunities for war by presidential fiat. And absent a victory in the House of Brobdingnagian proportions, most congressional Democrats will continue to view themselves as constrained from openly opposing him. Comme ci comme ça.

Nevertheless, we leave you with the Tammany Hall war cry: Vote early, and vote often.