Both President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are in the Bay Area Wednesday, but don’t expect the two most prominent Democrats in the country to cross paths on their separate trips – where she’s getting the buzz, and he’s getting the blowback.
Clinton, who is considering a 2016 White House bid, has made headlines with a jam-packed Bay Area schedule this week, ranging from stops at social media kings Google, Facebook and Twitter on Monday to her planned appearance Wednesday at a children’s education event in Oakland.
Meanwhile, Obama’s 18th visit to the Bay Area as president – an in-and-out fundraising stop – is handing GOP opponents an opportunity to needle him for hitting up wealthy donors for contributions at a time of international crises.
Even some loyal partisans say they’re scratching their heads about the president’s strategy.
“It defies every principle,” Garry South, former adviser to Gov. Gray Davis and a Democratic consultant, said of Obama’s pure-fundraising itinerary. “Official activities should always drive the schedule.”
Set 2 weeks ago
The three-stop fundraising trip to the West Coast was set up two weeks ago, before the Israeli-Gaza conflict erupted and a Malaysian passenger jet was shot down over Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine.
South acknowledged that “the president has to raise money. They all do it. They’ve all done it.”
But he added, “You potentially blunt the criticism if you plan your fundraising trips with official activities – and (the Obama White House) has not been good at doing that. It’s a five-hour-and-50-minute flight out here (from Washington) … so why not twin it with something where people see you in your official capacity?”
‘I don’t understand’
If Obama’s friends weren’t defending him, his foes weren’t about to come to his rescue.
“I don’t understand this president,” Obama’s 2008 Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, said Sunday on Fox News. “The crisis on the border and he did the fundraisers, the fundraisers in New York while there are major, major conflicts … I do not understand it.”
Ken Goldstein, University of San Francisco professor of politics, said Obama is simply doing what has been de rigueur for Democratic candidates for years: “You come to California and the Bay Area to raise a lot of money from the people in new media, so you can spend it on old media in battleground states.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest, at a briefing Tuesday, bridled at questions about the appropriateness and timing of the trip.
“What will be clear to you as the president goes through the next several days is that he will be paying all of the necessary attention to make sure that American interests are represented in each of these circumstances,” Earnest said. “He can do that through phone calls. He can do that through conversations with staff either in Washington, around the globe, or traveling with him along the West Coast. That will be the urgent priority.”
Pair of fundraisers
Obama touched down at San Francisco International Airport about 9:20 p.m. Tuesday to little fanfare. He will overnight in the city before heading to a pair of fundraisers Wednesday, one at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco and one at the home of real estate investor George Marcus and his wife, Judy, in Los Altos Hills.
Joining Obama at that fundraiser, which is expected to draw 90 donors, will be House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto, said sources with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Almost immediately after collecting $1,000 per person to $32,400 per couple for the Democrats’ congressional campaign fund, Obama will leave for another fundraiser in Los Angeles at the home of screenwriter Shonda Rhimes.
Talking to ‘real people’
By contrast, Clinton is set to appear with civic, business and community leaders to underscore the importance of early childhood education at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.
“With Hillary, she’s doing a book tour, which is a soft launch and a little practice for what’s looking like a presidential run,” Goldstein said. “She’s traveling the country, she’s going from place to place, and she’s doing public events.
“Barack Obama isn’t ever going to be on the ballot again, and Hillary Clinton may be on the ballot,” he said. “So it makes no sense for Barack Obama to talk to real people – and it makes real sense for her to talk to real people.”
Carla Marinucci is senior political reporter with The San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @cmarinucci