Obama’s real deficit problem is the lack of enthusiasm among his supporters

If President Obama loses his reelection bid in 2012, it may be because he has disappointed so many who had such high hopes for him in 2008. This surely is not true for a relative handful of individuals, who bundled campaign contributions and raised a lot of money for the President, and who were richly rewarded for their efforts.

This week, the Center for Public Integrity issued a report that 200 of those bundlers got posts in the administration, as ambassadors, key staff appointees, or members of influential advisory boards.

According to the report, 184 of 556, about a third, of Obama bundlers or their spouses got administration appointments. But four out of every five of the biggest bundlers (who raised more than half a million dollars) got “key administration posts.”

This, despite then-candidate Obama’s pledge to end this business-as-usual approach to politics. Clinton did it. Both Bushes did it, and Presidents before that. That Obama has kept pace with his oft criticized predecessors is disappointing. In fact, Obama’s catering to big donors is even greater than that of George W. Bush.

Nor should we be mollified by a White House statement that having donated $50,000 or raised/bundled $500,000 didn’t ensure such plum posts as the reward but that having contributed handsomely shouldn’t disqualify someone. How unbelievably lame. And how unbelievably naïve of us even to have believed things would change.

There are other reasons for Obama supporters to be disappointed. As Congressman Michael Capuano pointed out at this week’s New England Council breakfast, in Washington’s polarized environment, the President has not been an effective negotiator. When Obama couldn’t get the Republicans to agree to a budget that included restoring the Bush tax cuts to family earnings over $250,000, he should have gone for a $500,000 cutoff, or even $1 million, just to walk away with something that established the principle that we can’t afford to continue the Bush tax cuts if we want to curb the deficit. Obama’s failure to bargain tough on that issue weakens his position in the debt ceiling showdown.

Obama’s actions in Libya, in apparent violation of the War Powers Act, is another disappointment, highly evocative of past Presidential adventurism and surprising from a President who taught Constitutional law. As Capuano, who is one of those suing the President for not going to Congress for approval of our Libyan military involvement, avers, “No one person should have the power to take the country to war…..If you can do it in Libya, you can do it in China or Iran. If Obama can do it, any president can do it.”

The overwhelming part of Obama’s base, like Capuano, will not defect to a different candidate, but at this point there’s clearly an enthusiasm deficit. How much might be measured by this quarter’s financing by small donors. An enthusiasm deficit could also play out in reduced Democratic turnout in next year’s election, particularly in such battleground states as North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado and Florida. How much excitement gets revived for Obama may hinge on whom the GOP selects for its nominee, and that is far from clear.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photos from Getty Images and Reuters

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