Obama and Romney: The 'Jekyll and Hyde' Candidates
It was all about money and mansions for Mitt Romney this weekend as he filled his already-brimming campaign coffers with five-figure fundraisers in the Hamptons, on Long Island, and in Aspen, Colo., places synonymous with the rich and famous.
But today that ritz and glitz will be replaced by bleachers and florescent lighting as Romney mingles with middle-class voters at a town hall in Grand Junction, Colo., where the median household income is less than the price of a plate at Romney's Aspen fundraiser.
Such is the life of a presidential candidate. One day, it's schmoozing with deep-pocketed donors in swanky resorts, the next it's glad-handing with school teachers and assembly line workers in rustic rural diners.
"It's a Jekyll and Hyde thing," said James Thurber, a government professor at American University. "They have to grab the money, grub after money, but they also have to look like they are not associated with that kind of activity."
Both Romney and President Obama often buffer their luxurious fundraising sprees with stops in small towns. And while cameras are often banned from the lavish fundraisers, they are more than welcome at those rural campaign stops.
"It's essential for the candidates to seem like they are home-town people," Thurber said. "One way that they organize this -- it's really a theater that they are creating -- is to have these settings like a farm in New Hampshire and to be in plaid shirt in a wagon or whatever."
After a two-day fundraising blitz through Colorado and California in late May, Obama jetted over to Iowa where he toured a wind turbine manufacturing plant and held a rally on the state fair grounds. Romney is employing the same strategy this week, following his fundraising spree in the Hamptons and the Aspen ski resort with a speech in a small Colorado town.
"High dollar fundraisers again don't send a great message to the run of the mill American people," Thurber said. "They have to start projecting what they want to seem like to the public, reaching out to people who are unemployed and who are in those small towns."
Both Romney and Obama have shattered fundraising records this year, and they aren't doing it in rural Iowa. While undecided voters in swing-state small towns are often the target of their campaigns, when it comes to collecting cash, both candidates have their sights set on big cities with high median incomes.
Washington, D.C., for example, where Obama has held 22 fundraisers this year, has a median household income of $58,000, according to Census data. That's at least $2,000 per year higher than in any of the cities on Obama's four-stop bus tour last week.
At one of those stops, in Parma, Ohio, where the median yearly household income is $49,000, Obama spoke to prospective voters from the picnic pavilion at the local park, which costs $25 to rent for the day.
The week before, the president was also meeting supporters, but at Hamersley's Bistro in Boston, where the average entrée costs more than renting the Parma pavilion and where the 25 supporters paid $40,000 each to eat with Obama, enough to re-build the entire pavilion about 12 times.
"It's predictable," Thurber said. "They are going to focus on battleground states for getting votes and they are going to focus on where the money is for getting money."
Following the money has led both candidates to the luxury Waldorf-Astoria hotel in Manhattan, where a basic room costs upwards of $400 per night.
Obama hosted about 500 guests at the 4.5-star hotel for a soiree with former President Bill Clinton and rocker Jon Bon Jovi in June as part of a trio of fundraisers in the Big Apple that brought in at least $3.6 million, based on figures provided by the Obama campaign.
Romney, along with 250 of his supporters, dropped by the luxury hotel in May for a fundraiser that brought in $5 million, according to Romney national finance chairman Spencer Zwick.
Romney's rendezvous at the Waldorf-Astoria was part of a two-day fundraising blitz that also included a multi-million-dollar dinner at the home of state senator and venture capitalist Scott Frantz in Greenwich, Conn.
The presumptive GOP nominee was in Connecticut the month before, meeting with female business leaders at an Alpha Graphics store in Hartford. The median household income of Greenwich, where Romney fundraised, was more than three times that of Hartford, where he held a campaign rally.
In a campaign cycle that is on track to obliterate spending records, both candidates have had their sights set on checkbooks so far this year. Obama, for instance, has held a record-setting 177 re-election fundraisers for his campaign and the Democratic Party during his first term. That's compared with just over a dozen public campaign rallies, speeches, and organizing events.
"That's typical of this stage," Thurber said. "This is the time to do that fundraising, to build up the coffers and then spend more time out there campaigning with 12 weeks left, eight weeks, left before the election."
While the Romney campaign is more than happy to gloat about their three-digit monthly fundraising numbers, the exact number of fundraisers the candidate attended is unknown, as the press is only invited to a handful of them and the campaign will rarely provide details for the others.
And as Obama and Democrats scrutinize Romney for transparency, his money events aren't always open to reporters either. This year Obama has attended at least 31 private fundraisers with high-dollar donors.