As President Barack Obama's re-election campaign kicks into high gear, the president and first lady have made recent high-profile trips to California. Obama has California's 55 electoral votes locked up; no Republican is likely to steal those away from him. But it never hurts to have as much money as possible from California donors that Obama will be able to spend in other, less secure states. Obama hopes to raise $1 billion between now and November 2012.
The dough is rolling in. In April, Obama flew into Los Angeles at taxpayer expense to have three separate fundraising dinners in one night. The first, at Sony Studios, hosted 60 guests at $38,500 a plate. Then, later that same evening, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, tennis channel CEO Ken Soloman and Capital Group's John Emerson chaired two dinners at Tavern in Brentwood, also at $35,800 a head.
Although you can't call it cheap, lunching with Michelle in the Bay Area was quite a bit more affordable — a mere $2,500 for breakfast at Oakland's Claremont Hotel Club and Spa. The first lady spent two days in California, which included four fundraisers and one public event that promoted her anti-obesity program.
Meanwhile, the only certainty about the 2012 Republican presidential field is that it grows larger and less impressive every day. This must frustrate GOP leadership, because Obama is nothing if not vulnerable.
The official list of announced Republican candidates includes one former senator (Rick Santorum), four former governors (Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney), a former House Speaker (Newt Gingrich), two current House representatives (Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann) and businessman Herman Cain.
Obama's post-Osama bin Laden poll bump has vanished. According to a Washington Post ABC News poll, Americans by a 2-1 margin think the nation is on the wrong track. Although Obama has a ton of problems — like his unpopular Afghanistan war, the high cost of food and gasoline, depressed housing and a nervous stock market — his biggest negative is that under his administration millions of people have lost their jobs and can't find a new one.
If history is our guide, then Obama will be a single-term president. No president has been re-elected when the unemployment rate exceeds 7.2 percent. Currently, it stands at 9.1 percent and is poised to rise.
Among the lackluster Republican hopefuls, former Massachusetts governor Romney leads the pack, based mostly on his private sector business success. Romney's visibility isn't as high as Palin's, but among probable voters his credibility is greater.
Looking at the candidate list, I wonder who advises them and why they listen. Many recognize Gingrich's name, but, according to the poll, the least-appealing candidate trait is "being an elected official in Washington for a long time."
If Obama expects to prevail, sooner or later he'll have to enter middle-class America, where voters are less friendly to him than they are in Hollywood.
What Obama will find in crucial swing states is disappointed voters convinced that the president presented himself one way to gain their support during the 2008 campaign but then, once he won their votes, governed another way.
The key for an Obama 2012 victory will depend on his ability to convince hurting citizens that he truly cares about them and their fate. So far, Obama has shown only indifference.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. He currently lives in Pittsburgh, Penn. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.