Politico.com on July 15, 2008:
"After a brief bout of Obamamania, some Capitol Hill Democrats have begun to complain privately that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is insular, uncooperative and inattentive to their hopes for a broad Democratic victory in November.
“They think they know what’s right and everyone else is wrong on everything,” groused one senior Senate Democratic aide. “They are kind of insufferable at this point.”
Among the grievances described by Democratic leadership insiders:
• Until a mailing that went out in the past few days, Obama had done little fundraising for Democratic candidates since signing off on e-mailed fundraising appeals for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee immediately after securing the Democratic nomination.
• Obama has sometimes appeared in members’ districts with no advance notice to lawmakers, resulting in lost opportunities for those Democrats to score points by appearing alongside their party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
• The Obama campaign has not, until very recently, coordinated a daily message with congressional Democrats, leaving Democratic members in the lurch when they’re asked to comment on the constant back and forth between Obama and John McCain — as they were when Obama said earlier this month that he would “continue to refine” his Iraq policies after meeting with commanders on the ground there.
• Coordination between the Obama campaign and the House and Senate leadership is so weak that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who will chair the Democrats’ convention in August — didn’t know of Obama’s decision to move his final-night acceptance speech from the Pepsi Center to Invesco Field until the campaign announced it on a conference call with reporters.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton dismissed the criticism as not-for-attribution complaints of staffers who aren’t knowledgeable about the campaign’s Hill coordination efforts.
“It’s a favorite parlor game in Washington for low-level staff to take shots at anyone they can, given the opportunity,” Burton said. “But as leadership aides across the Hill have confirmed even in this story, we have a constructive working relationship with the House and Senate leadership and continue to work with them to bring about the change the American people demand this November.”
On the record, spokesmen for Democratic leaders and the campaign committees say they’re pleased with the coordination they’re getting from the Obama campaign.
“We have a great relationship with the Obama campaign and work closely with them on everything from message strategy to on-the-ground coordination in states where we have races,” said DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller. Jennifer Crider, the DCCC’s communications director, said the DCCC and the Obama campaign are working together “to bring our change agenda to the country.”
Privately, however, there is a different message coming from some Democratic quarters on the Hill and on K Street. Some Democratic leadership staffers complain that, having defeated the vaunted Clinton political machine in the primaries, the Obama campaign now feels a “sense of entitlement” that leads to “arrogance.”
One Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, compared the Obama campaign unfavorably to President Bush’s administration.
“At least Bush waited until he was in the White House before they started ignoring everybody,” the aide said.
“These relationships matter,” said a House Democrat close to the leadership. “I really hope these guys try to get off on the right foot. We all know what happened to [former President] Jimmy Carter and [former President] Bill Clinton. We don’t want to see a repeat of that.”
Brian Wolff, the DCCC’s executive director, said that some of the “supposed arrogance” coming from the Obama camp is in reality a misinterpreted sense of confidence in the campaign’s plan for winning the Oval Office, including grass-roots mobilization, in-state political infrastructure, messaging and get-out-the vote operations.
“They have to set the tone, and they are setting the tone,” Wolff said. “Arrogance is sometimes mistaken for competence. I think having a real competent approach to your campaign, whether it’s field [operations] or politics, or overall message, I think it’s really important. ... They’re really doing a really good job at this.”
Some of the complaints about the Obama campaign are the result of tensions inherent in any presidential campaign — Democratic or Republican — as a candidate’s staff tries to deal with the Washington establishment.
Others are the result of the circumstances in which Obama finds himself: Having battled Hillary Rodham Clinton into June, Obama hasn’t had much time for the normal interaction between a campaign and Congress. And having to struggle to help Clinton pay off her own debt, he hasn’t had the time or the resources to raise money for Democratic House and Senate candidates.
But some problems are specific to the choices Obama has made — to run as a “change” candidate and to base his operations in Chicago rather than Washington. In distancing himself from “politics as usual,” Obama has shown little interest in being seen with Reid, Pelosi or other members of the Democratic congressional leadership.
And by forbidding lobbyists from playing formal roles in his campaign, Obama has denied himself access to people — in many cases, former Democratic members and aides who are still close to leaders and other lawmakers — who could help him smooth over issues with the Hill. Without lobbyists involved, hotel rooms and tickets for the convention are harder to come by, spurring protests and leaving bruised egos among congressional Democrats used to being treated like VIPs.
The Obama campaign has already moved to address some of these sore spots, recently appointing Phil Schiliro, former chief of staff to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), as Obama’s Capitol Hill liaison. Schiliro, who also served as an aide to former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), sat in on his first Democratic leadership meeting and House Democratic Caucus meeting last week, said House aides.
“I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t a priority for Sen. Obama and the campaign,” Schiliro said of his new role.
Daily message conference calls have been established, and Obama’s campaign has begun consultations, still in the early stages, with Democratic leaders over political strategy for November. Schiliro said it was “premature” to criticize the Obama camp’s level of outreach to congressional Democrats.
Other Obama campaign sources repeatedly noted that the drawn-out fight with Clinton has “put the campaign behind schedule” in terms of Hill outreach and message operation, but that the campaign remains confident it can make up lost ground."