Gaggle with Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest aboard Air Force One en route Stamford, CT
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Stamford, Connecticut
4:10 P.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST: Just one quick thing at the top. As you may have noticed when you boarded the aircraft today, this aircraft recently came out of depot maintenance. And today's presidential trip will be its first after undergoing these routine but important inspections and upgrades. In addition to performing a wide range of maintenance procedures, the onboard communication system has been modernized to better handle the communications needs of this President and future Presidents.
When he arrived at Andrews Air Force Base today, the President thanked the members of the Air Force maintenance team that worked for more than a year to complete this crucial sustainment project. So that was part of the ceremony you saw when the President stepped off the helicopter today.
Q -- the team who he met with?
MR. EARNEST: I can see if there's more specific names, but I know that this was an Air Force maintenance team that's responsible for the upgrades that were incorporated to this aircraft.
Q Can you be more specific about the communications upgrades -- like what kind of equipment or what capabilities do we have now that we didn’t have before?
MR. EARNEST: I would refer you to the Department of Defense for some of those details, but I don't have those at hand.
Other than that, you saw that Jay did a briefing this afternoon, so we don't want to recreate that here. But if you have questions about the events tonight, then Jen can answer, or other questions that might come up.
MS. PSAKI: I'm from Stamford, Connecticut. This is my hometown -- important announcement. (Laughter.)
Q -- who's going to be there other than the host that you've already announced?
MS. PSAKI: I don't. We typically don't announce or provide a list of people who are attending an event. We do provide the information about the cost of tickets, host information like that. So I'm sure as a reporter from Bloomberg, you will do your best to spot many people in attendance who you recognize.
Q The President was out-raised for a third consecutive month. Are you guys alarmed? Is this going to be the pattern the rest of the way, do you expect?
MS. PSAKI: As we've long said, we expect to be out-raised. Our focus is on ensuring we have the resources, the tools, to create and build the biggest grassroots campaign in history, and that means putting staff on the ground, opening offices, being able to do what we know this campaign is going to be about, which is reaching voters in the key target states.
Since you asked, a couple of stats I just wanted to remind everyone of -- one, 98 percent of our donations were $250 or less. And the average donation was about $53. That's encouraging because it means people can give again who have been giving. It means we’re bringing people into the process who may not have been a part of it before.
And on that note, more than 200,000 people gave who had not given previously, including 2008. So those are people who are likely to give $5, $10, $20, maybe more, but also are likely to volunteer. They’re likely to be part of a phone bank. And that’s what our campaign is all about.
Q -- you just referenced is likely to really build a heavy amount of negative advertising in swing states that are important to the Obama campaign. How is the President going to distance himself from the recent unemployment numbers and the dismal jobs number and that barrage of advertising we're expected to see come out of the hefty campaigning from Mitt Romney?
MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple things. One, I would say we see this campaign as the American people do, as a choice between the candidates. And what the President is presenting and putting forward is a plan that includes fighting for middle-class tax cuts. It includes investing in clean energy, making sure kids have access to assistance they need to go to college. And that’s what we think people will be making their choice on.
We know we’re going to be outspent. That’s a reality. On terms of jobs numbers, I would say we’re still at 28 -- 29 months of straight private sector job growth. We know more needs to be done. The President has said that many times. That’s why he’s put forward a number of proposals that he would like Congress to act on now that includes asking them to pass a middle-class tax cut. It includes investing in infrastructure. It includes acting on more assistance for small businesses.
On the flipside, which is what the American people are choosing between, Mitt Romney has a $5 trillion tax plan that gives tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, and doesn’t help the middle class.
So we know they may have more resources on the air, but we have a message that we think -- and a plan that we think is going to translate better for middle-class voters and people who are deciding in November who they want to support.
Q Do you have an estimate on the President’s cash on hand through the end of the month? And also, is there any plan to scale back in any areas because of the fundraising --
MS. PSAKI: We have not released that number yet. As soon as we do, I’m sure that you'll be able -- have the information. I don’t think there’s plans to release that number today. In terms of scaling back, we are absolutely -- our focus is on making sure we have the resources to open offices, keep not only hired staff but volunteers on the ground. We’re on target and we’re where we need to be in that regard. We still had a month where we raised $75 million.
And as a reminder, John Kerry, who I worked for eight years ago -- I feel like that makes me old -- he outraised George Bush almost every month, if not every month, after he won the nomination, too. So this is not unexpected. We’ve planned for and know what we needed to have the resources we need in states and that’s where our investment and our focus is.
Q Harvey Weinstein has made some comments recently about the need for gun control. And in light of the temple shootings in Wisconsin this weekend -- and he's talked about the movie industry's role in glorifying violence sometimes. Does the President have any plans to discuss that tonight?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don't know that there will be anything in the President's prepared remarks this evening. But Jay talked about this pretty extensively during the briefing, about the President's commitment to protecting Second Amendment rights while ensuring that we make maximum use of the laws that are currently on the books to ensure that people who don't -- who shouldn't have guns aren't able to get them.
The President talked about this pretty extensively in his speech to the Urban League a couple of weeks back. But I don't know that he is going to -- that he's planned to make any additional remarks on that today.
MS. PSAKI: -- you probably saw this or you may have been en route -- he did talk about the need to do some soul-searching, because of the frequency of the type of events, tragic events, that happened this past weekend and in Colorado. So he did touch on it today.
Q I think it was a -- I believe it was a New York Times story this weekend about the Obama campaign's financial situation. It mentioned that the campaign has had to schedule more fundraisers than expected, sort of implying maybe that you were scrambling to add more events. Is that true? And how many more? And are there going to be -- continuing to be more and more on his schedule?
MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned, 98 percent of our donations were from people contributing less than $250. That still is -- those people are still the ones who are funding our campaign, who are driving our campaign. I'm not going to get into strategy of how many we plan to do, how many we did. Obviously --
Q Are you like -- I mean, this story -- I don't know if you know the story I'm talking about -- it indicated that you guys had to sort of add more events than you wanted or had originally planned to the President's schedule. That brings up whether the President is going to be going out and doing more and more fundraisers when he is also trying to sort of balance his White House job.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we know that fundraising is naturally a part of campaigning. Of course, we would love to out-raise -- surprise everybody and out-raise Mitt Romney in a quarter ahead -- I'm sorry -- a month ahead. But we know that and we expected to be out-raised. So, look, I would say that the President is able to balance fundraising, campaigning, and being in the White House all at the same time. He has a very busy schedule every day.
As you know -- and you've all covered campaigns I think before -- there's constant adjustments to the campaign schedule and what he is and isn't doing. So I can't speak to that. I'm not going to speak to internal strategy. But I can say that we do feel very comfortable with our ability to balance his role as Commander-in-Chief, the time he's campaigning, and the time that he does need to spend fundraising because it's a political campaign.
MR. EARNEST: All right, everybody.
Q Thank you.
4:19 P.M. EDT