* President hopes Democrats can defy odds in mid-terms
* Party in power usually loses seats in middle of
* Needing Republicans, Obama may temper his message
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, April 3 President Barack Obama will
launch a fund-raising drive for the 2014 U.S. mid-term elections
on Wednesday with addresses to deep-pocketed donors in
California, hoping the Democratic Party can defy the odds and
gain congressional seats in the polls.
The party in power in the White House usually loses seats in
election years in which the presidency is not up for grabs. This
means Democrats have their work cut out for them in trying to
win a majority in the Republican-controlled House of
Representatives and add to their majority in the Senate.
"An off-year is always tough for the party in power," said
Democratic strategist Bud Jackson. "But never say never, and I
think it's possible that you could swing some seats. At the very
least you make the attempted grab."
The president has an interest in making the effort, because
without a significant change in the make-up of Congress, he
faces possible paralysis for many of the initiatives laid out in
his inaugural address and State of the Union speech.
His second term, won decisively in the election last
November over Republican Mitt Romney, has opened with a repeat
of the partisan tensions that marked his first term and with an
unrelenting stalemate over taxes and spending.
A bid to tighten gun regulations, which Obama will address
at a stop in Denver on Wednesday, is in danger as pro-gun groups
pressure lawmakers who for decades have been reluctant to take
on the powerful gun lobby. Only an immigration overhaul looks
promising as Republicans smarting over Hispanic vote losses in
2012 need a victory on it as much as Obama does.
This does not mean Obama is abandoning his priorities until
after the mid-terms. His team in general sees the need for
action as soon as possible before the country's attention turns
to the 2014 and 2016 elections.
OBAMA MAY TEMPER MESSAGE
As a result, Obama may offer a more restrained message when
he speaks at fund-raising events in San Francisco, talking up
his party's agenda without antagonizing political opponents.
Some Republican senators told Obama when he visited Capitol
Hill in March that it did not help their fiscal negotiations
with him when he traveled around the country criticizing them.
Obama aides said Obama can both support his own party's
campaign apparatus while still seeking compromise with
"There's plenty of work to do here in Washington D.C. before
we turn our attention to the midterm elections," said White
House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest.
Obama's San Francisco stop will kick off 14 events he
intends to stage this year to raise money for the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee, its Senate counterpart or the
Democratic National Committee. The party is still trying to pay
off its debts from the last election.
In San Francisco, Obama has two evening events planned to
help House Democratic campaigns. California Democratic
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the top House Democrat who was
dethroned as speaker in 2010, is expected to attend.
Democrats need to win 17 seats in 2014 to win control of the
"The confidence that the president is showing by dedicating
his efforts to our efforts is a shot in the arm for House
Democrats," said Jesse Ferguson, spokesman for the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee.
The first event - a cocktail reception priced at $5,000 a
person - is at the home of billionaire former asset manager Tom
Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor. After that, a
$32,500-per-person dinner will be held at the home of
billionaires Ann and Gordon Getty.
The next day Obama will attend two DNC fundraisers.
Obama's trip is all the more important because of the need
to pay off debt hanging over party organizations since the 2012
election. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee owed
$10.8 million as of the end of February, according to Federal
Election Committee disclosure forms, and the Democratic
Senatorial Campaign Committee owed $15 million.
Republicans note that Obama's electoral sway is not so
powerful when his name is not on the ballot. Democrats lost 63
seats and control of the House in 2010 midterms, as well as six
"There's something to his appeal when he's on the ballot.
I'm not sure they can deliver the same vote when he's not," said
Republican strategist Charlie Black.