CBS: Despite Unpopularity, Obama Still 'Raking in Millions' for Dems

Chip Reid, CBS While teasing an upcoming report on President Obama campaigning for Democrats on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, fill-in co-host Chris Wragge touted: "...plunging poll numbers haven't stopped the President from raking in millions at fund raisers across the country."

Later, White House correspondent Chip Reid observed: "You know, the President's approval rating is only 44%, but he is still quite popular with the party's base and he's using that clout to raise millions of dollars for fellow Democrats." Reid went on to declare: "President Obama and the Democratic Party are managing to raise big bucks in the hope of retaining control of Congress. The Democratic National Committee is committing $50 million to help candidates in 2010, $20 million in cash, and $30 million to get out the vote."

A campaign sound bite was played of the President attacking Republicans: "We do not fear the future. We shape the future. That's part of what this election's about. The other side wants you to be afraid of the future." Reid concluded: "President Obama is doing six fund-raisers over three days in five states. By week's end, he'll have raised over $56 million this campaign season."

Only at the end of his report did Reid briefly notice the money raised by the GOP: "Now, Republicans are also raking in the cash this campaign season. The Republican Governors Association, for example, has brought in $58 million since President Obama came into office."

In addition to the President's fundraising efforts, the segment also focused on political fallout from the Ground Zero mosque controversy, though only in terms of how the issue would impact the elections. Reid explained how Obama was "now dealing with a split in the party over the issue of religious freedom."

Reid continued: "President Obama's support of the right to build an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero is causing a rift within the party." He noted how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid disagreed with the President's position and added: "Some in the party fear the controversy will carry over into the midterm campaigns."

Following Reid's report, fill-in co-host Erica Hill asked Democratic strategist Tanya Acker and Republican strategist Bay Buchanan about the issue. Speaking to Acker, Hill wondered: "President Obama made these remarks and now it's really forcing a lot of Democrats to choose sides. So moving forward, what's the best message for Democratic candidates as they tackle this – what's now become a national issue?" Acker argued: "I think this is an issue about religious freedom and the Constitution....Democrats, and frankly Americans generally, need to understand what this issue is about."

Hill then turned to Buchanan: "Bay, how much of an issue should Republicans make this? Because at the end of the day, for most voters, the real issue here is still the economy." Buchanan challenged Acker's assertion: "This has nothing to do with religious freedom. There's 100 mosques or so in New York City. Nobody's suggesting we tear them all down. What we're saying is Americans respect hallowed ground. This is hallowed ground, 9/11 is – Ground Zero is hallowed ground." Acker shot back at Buchanan: "I'm pleased to know that Bay is not in support of tearing down mosques in the United States of America. I'm glad that that issue is off the table....to suggest that Islam – a faith that billions of people around the world adhere to – is endemically somehow compared to terrorism is just wrong."

Here is a full transcript of the August 17 segment:

 7:00AM TEASE

CHRIS WRAGGE: In-fighting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid breaks with President Obama over the proposed Ground Zero mosque.

HARRY REID: I think that it's very obvious that the mosque should be built someplace else.

WRAGGE: But the controversy and plunging poll numbers haven't stopped the President from raking in millions at fund raisers across the country. We'll have a live report.

7:01AM SEGMENT

ERICA HILL: We want to take a look at politics now. It is day two of President Obama's cross-country campaign-style fund-raisers. Today he will be in Seattle for the first time since he was a candidate. CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid is traveling with the President. He joins us this morning from Los Angeles before heading north. Chip, good morning.

CHIP REID: Well good morning, Erica. You know, the President's approval rating is only 44%, but he is still quite popular with the party's base and he's using that clout to raise millions of dollars for fellow Democrats. But at the same time, he's now dealing with a split in the party over the issue of religious freedom.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Mosque Controversy; Top Dem Breaks Ranks With Obama]

President Obama's support of the right to build an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero is causing a rift within the party. The latest, the Senate's top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, breaking ranks with the President.

HARRY REID: The Constitution gives us freedom of religion. I think that it's very obvious that the mosque should be built someplace else.

CHIP REID: Reid's comments come after the President's speech Friday night.

BARACK OBAMA: But let me be clear. As a citizen and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.

REID: Some in the party fear the controversy will carry over into the midterm campaigns. But so far, President Obama and the Democratic Party are managing to raise big bucks in the hope of retaining control of Congress. The Democratic National Committee is committing $50 million to help candidates in 2010, $20 million in cash, and $30 million to get out the vote.

OBAMA: We do not fear the future. We shape the future. That's part of what this election's about. The other side wants you to be afraid of the future.

REID: President Obama is doing six fund-raisers over three days in five states. By week's end, he'll have raised over $56 million this campaign season.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [POLITICAL ANALYST]: People want access to the President. They're excited to be in the room with the President and if they can get a couple minutes to whisper in his ear, they'll pay a lot of money for it.

REID: Now, Republicans are also raking in the cash this campaign season. The Republican Governors Association, for example, has brought in $58 million since President Obama came into office. Erica.

HILL: Chip, thanks. CBS's Chip Reid in Los Angeles this morning. Also joining us from Los Angeles this morning, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker and in Washington, Republican
strategist Bay Buchanan. Good to have both of you with us this morning.

BAY BUCHANAN: Thanks, Erica.

TANYA ACKER: Good to see you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Countdown to Midterms; Assessing the Impact of Obama's Mosque Comments]

HILL: Tanya, I want to start with you. Forget the should he, shouldn't he have said it. It's been established, President Obama made these remarks and now it's really forcing a lot of Democrats to choose sides. So moving forward, what's the best message for Democratic candidates as they tackle this – what's now become a national issue?

ACKER: I think that it's very important for Democrats, frankly, and look, I would expect – I don't think this should simply be a partisan issue, I think this is an issue about religious freedom and the Constitution. And I think that whether or not the President should have stepped into this fray – I think he should have – Democrats, and frankly Americans generally, need to understand what this issue is about. And if Democrats lose seats because they took a stance for religious freedom, then we've got far bigger problems than simply winning elections, frankly.

HILL: Bay, how much of an issue should Republicans make this? Because at the end of the day, for most voters, the real issue here is still the economy.
            
BUCHANAN: There – well, it's going to be hard to beat the economy when it comes to the election, but I got to tell you, this is an important issue because it just shows a complete lack of understanding of what is happening here. This has nothing to do with religious freedom. There's 100 mosques or so in New York City. Nobody's suggesting we tear them all down. What we're saying is Americans respect hallowed ground. This is hallowed ground, 9/11 is – Ground Zero is hallowed ground. We don't want malls built next to Manassas, we don't want casinos built next to Gettysburg. It has nothing to do with us being against development. What we want is this hallowed ground to be respected. And it does not respect or honor those that died to build a mosque, the very kind of statement to those who died, it's an insult to them.

HILL: But – but how much-

ACKER: Well, I'm pleased to know that-

HILL: Go ahead, Tanya.

ACKER: I'm sorry.

HILL: Go ahead.

ACKER: I was just going to say, I'm pleased to know that Bay is not in support of tearing down mosques in the United States of America. I'm glad that that issue is off the table. But talking about what this issue really means, of course it's hallowed ground, but to suggest that Islam – a faith that billions of people around the world adhere to – is endemically somehow compared to terrorism is just wrong. And as Americans, we should not be, we should not be propounding that message. It's just wrong. So, of course it's hallowed ground-

HILL: Well, we know that this is a debate that will continue, but I do have to move on to this, ladies, before we let you go. We've seen so much this primary season, there's been so much talk about the fact that what Americans really want is a change, that the incumbents are going to be on their way out. Bay, I'll start with you. Can either party or any one candidate really change the way things are done in Washington?

BUCHANAN: One person can change a lot. By just speaking out, being bold. In representing the millions of Americans that are expecting that. But what we're going to find in November is it's not just going to be one. We're going to have dozens upon dozens of new fresh faces coming to Washington with one intent and that is to represent the will of the American people, to be there to fight for them, to stop this outrageous spending and to try to turn the country back to a safe and sound course. That's where you'll find real change.

HILL: We're going to have to leave it there. Bay Buchanan, Tanya Acker, always good to have your perspective. Don't worry, Tanya, I promise you'll be back. You both will. Thank you.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC