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Sarah Palin vs. Barack Obama: The 2010 money race begins

March 17, 2009 | 12:22 am

Alaska Republican Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin talks with Senator Joseph Lieberman near Democratic President Barack Obama at a January banquet in Washington

Just when you thought it was safe to start checking your e-mail and snail-mailboxes again, possibly the two biggest names in political fundraising today are hitting the money trail again.

President Barack Obama. And Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Is this a very early pre-season matchup for 2012, at least moneywise?

Now that he's snuffed the recession and gotten the economy back on track, the new president will headline an event for the Democratic National Committee in Washington on March 25, just before he starts his first overseas trip as chief executive.

It will be an early test of Obama's presidential moneyraising skills, given the complications of a sour economy and what D.C. Democrats admit is "donor fatigue" after Obama's $750-million haul during the presidential campaign of 2007-08. While his popularity remains in the low 60s or 59%, according to a new Pew Poll, that's about normal for this early in a new presidency.

Jimmy Carter holds the recent record approval of 71% while Ronald Reagan had only 55% early, both much better than the 34% George W. Bush left office with.

Palin remains probably the biggest Republican name out there. Despite numerous invitations and interview requests in recent weeks, she's clearly made a decision to stay close to home for the legislative session and be seen to focus on the business of Alaska, where she faces an election next year.

The governor, however, has agreed to be the main speaker for the House and Senate Republicans' biggest annual fundraiser June 8 at the Washington Convention Center. After suffering two consecutive losing congressional campaigns, the GOP faces another tough schedule next year, defending more seats than Democrats.

Even if Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal hadn't gotten such negative reviews for his GOP response to Obama's joint congressional speech, no one else yet matches the buzz and celebrity power of Palin on the Republican side; hence, the invitation and a royal coming-out opportunity for her on the big Washington stage.

The newly reelected Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, calls Palin "a breath of fresh air from the business-as-usual crowd in Washington."

Our pal Mark Silva has some more on Palin's event here and on Obama's fundraising here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Clarence Page / Chicago Tribune

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