Don't look now, but President Obama is once again playing fundraiser in chief.
Even though his name won't appear on the ballot, the most prolific fundraiser in the history of the Democratic Party is attempting to pump dollars into the coffers of progressive candidates.
After bruising midterm defeats, which were roundly viewed as a referendum on Obama's policies, the president mostly avoided the money-raising circuit. Now that Hillary Clinton has formally announced her presidential candidacy, as have a handful of GOP contenders, the president is no longer on the sidelines.
Obama's big-dollar fundraiser in Portland Thursday night, with tickets commanding up to $33,400 apiece, came after a pair of swanky events in Manhattan earlier this week.
The White House typically aligns the political events with stops it considers "official business." Obama's Oregon fundraiser came ahead of a visit to Nike's headquarters Friday to push for Trade Promotion Authority. The Manhattan money push followed the president's unveiling of his My Brother's Keeper Alliance.
Part of the reason for Obama's heightened fundraising schedule is that the 2016 money sprint is already in full swing.
The Clinton campaign acknowledged Wednesday that the former secretary of state would actively reach out to donors for a super PAC supporting her White House run, a move that comes as Democrats and Republicans alike brace for the most expensive political campaign in history.
The White House has not signaled yet just how active Obama will be on the campaign trail. Obama's aides don't want to distract from the president's efforts to burnish his legacy before the remainder of his second term is completely overshadowed by the race to succeed him.
But Democrats say they expect to see Obama schmoozing early and often in the pursuit of money for Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and down-ballot candidates.
"I think it's safe to say that he will do more fundraisers than any other lame-duck president has before," said one veteran Democratic strategist. "It comes with the territory. Nobody would dispute his ability to raise money. And it would be malpractice for him not to step on the gas now."
Yet party insiders have long questioned the president's commitment to helping other Democrats.
"He just looks like a fundamentally different guy when it's not his own ass on the line — and so does his team," a Democratic pollster recently told the Washington Examiner. "He should be treating it like the national championship, but it seems like just another game to him."
White House aides say such criticism is unfair.
Even as his approval ratings hovered around 40 percent, Obama broke records for fundraising in recent years.
And Obama freely concedes that much of his legacy is dependent on whether Democrats retain control of the White House.
Because so much of his second term has revolved around executive action, a Republican commander in chief could easily undo many of his initiatives.
"As Michelle [Obama] helpfully reminds me, I don't have another race to run," Obama said at one of his fundraisers this week. "This is not a project that stops after a certain term in office, and it's not a project that stops after an election. This is something that we have to sustain over the long term."