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Obama to pitch for health care before pitching for campaign cash for McCaskill

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 3, 2010 - The White House announced this afternoon that President Barack Obama will be mixing policy with politics while he is in town next week.

The president is slated to deliver a speech here Wednesday on health care, although no further details were given on the time or the place. (He also is to make a health care address next week in Philadelphia.)

Presumably, his address here will be prior to his appearance at Wednesday evening's U.S. Senate fund-raising event at the downtown Renaissance Grand hotel, where organizers say hundreds of tickets are being sold at every price level -- from $25 to $50,000.

All told, Democrats hope to sell well over 1,000 tickets (the exact number is still in flux).

While acknowledging "we're hoping to raise as much as possible,'' event organizer Matt Teter said that U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., had insisted on the "grassroots component'' -- which allows purchasers to pay as little as $25 to attend a pre-dinner reception.

Teter cited previous St. Louis fundraisers that featured a president or vice-president and noted that none had such low-price tickets, along with the standard hefty ones.

Next Wednesday's event is a joint fund-raiser for McCaskill and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Officially, the money will go into the Show Me State Victory Fund.

While some will end up in McCaskill's coffers, she and other Democrats acknowledge that a large chunk of next week's cash will be used to help the only major Missouri Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.

By all accounts, Obama's visit to St. Louis underscores the political importance of the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., who is retiring and not seeking re-election. Since national Democrats admit that they may lose Senate seats elsewhere this fall (such as North Dakota), Missouri's swing status is an attraction. Bond's seat used to be held by a Democrat, the late Thomas F. Eagleton. So, aside from the national political push, Missouri Democrats would like to get the seat back on purely nostalgic grounds.

At last weekend's Republican Lincoln Days festivities, Bond endorsed the best-known Republican seeking his seat, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Springfield, who currently holds an edge in the latest independent polls conducted in the state.

Blunt also has an edge in the bank-account department. Democrats hope that Obama's presence next week will help Carnahan bridge the gap.

(The contest for cash has led to Blunt and Carnahan both taking heat from the opposition for their travels around the country for fundraising --she appealed for help in Seattle, while he's sought big money in the Big Apple.)

In any case, here's the price list for next Wednesday's downtown presidential reception and dinner:

  • $25, includes one standing ticket
  • $75, includes one standing ticket
  • $100, includes one ticket with priority standing
  • $250, includes one ticket with premier seating
  • $500, includes one ticket with ropeline priority seating
  • Guest: $2,400, includes cocktail reception and presidential dinner
  • Event Chair: raise $50,000 a couple and includes cocktail reception, presidential dinner, presidential event chair photo reception, and premiere seating.
  • Event Vice Chair: $35,200 a person, includes cocktail reception, presidential dinner, presidential event chair photo reception, and DSCC Majority Trust membership.
  • Event Host: $25,000 a person, includes cocktail reception, presidential dinner, and presidential event chair photo reception.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.